Solaris Advanced User's Guide

Searching for Metacharacters

To use the grep command to search for metacharacters such as & ! . * ? and \, precede the metacharacter with a backslash (\). The backslash tells grep to ignore (escape) the metacharacter.

For example, the following expression matches lines that start with a period, and is useful when searching for nroff or troff formatting requests (which begin with a period).

$ grep ^\.

Table 4–1 lists common search pattern elements you can use with grep.

Table 4–1 grep Search Pattern Elements




The beginning of a text line 


The end of a text line 


Any single character 


Any single character in the bracketed list or range 


Any character not in the list or range 


Zero or more occurrences of the preceding character or regular expression 


Zero or more occurrences of any single character 


The escape of special meaning of next character 

Note that you can also use these search characters in vi text editor searches.