wc Command in Linux


This tutorial explains Linux “wc” command, options and its usage with examples.

wc – Short for word count, wc displays a count of lines, words, and characters in a file.


The program reads either standard input or a list of files and generates one or more of the following statistics: newline count, word count, and byte count. If a list of files is provided, both individual file and total statistics follow. If a file is not specified for the File parameter, standard input is used. The command writes the results to standard output and keeps a total count for all named files. If flags are specified, the ordering of the flags determines the ordering of the output. A word is defined as a string of characters delimited by spaces, tabs, or newline characters.


wc [-c | -m | -C ] [-l] [-w] [ file … ]


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Count bytes.
Count characters.
Same as -m.
Count lines.
Count words delimited by white space characters or new line characters.
Name of file to word count.


1. Displaying Line,word and character count in myfile.txt.

$ wc myfile.txt
5    13    57   myfile.txt

5 = Lines
13 = Words
57 = Characters

2. Count how many files and directories are in the current directory

$ ls -1 | wc -l

This command uses the ls command to list files in a bare format and pipes the output into the wc command to count how many files are listed. When done properly, the terminal should return a single number indicating how many lines were counted and then return you to the prompt.


3. Display Length of Longest Line

$ wc -L abc

The ‘wc‘ command allow an argument ‘-L‘, it can be used to print out the length of longest (number of characters) line in a file. So, we have the longest character line (‘Scientific Linux‘) in a file.


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If you wish to look at all Linux commands and their usage examples, go to Linux Commands Tutorial.

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Manish Bhojasia - Founder & CTO at Sanfoundry
Manish Bhojasia, a technology veteran with 20+ years @ Cisco & Wipro, is Founder and CTO at Sanfoundry. He lives in Bangalore, and focuses on development of Linux Kernel, SAN Technologies, Advanced C, Data Structures & Alogrithms. Stay connected with him at LinkedIn.

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