Linux WC Command to Count Number of Lines, Words, & Characters

linux wc

The wc (word count) command is used Linux and Unix systems to count the number of lines, words, characters from one or multiple text files.

Wc is a terminal command and most used in bash shell scripting for line and word counting.

In the tutorial, we learn how to use Linux wc command with some practical examples.

Wc Command and its Syntax

Below you can find the syntax for wc command.

wc [OPTION]... [FILE]...

Wc command options to print counts as follows:

-w, --words - Print the number of words.
-c, --bytes - print the byte counts.
-m, --chars - Print the number of characters.
-l, --lines - Print the number of lines.
-L, --max-line-length - Print the length of the longest line.

By default, if wc command is used without any options it will print four columns.

For examples, lets read '/proc/meminfo' using wc command.

$ wc /proc/meminfo
47 137 1307 /proc/meminfo


47 - is the lines count

137 - the word count

1307 - the bytes count

Let check another example, how to find the number of lines in the file using -l option.

$ wc -l /proc/meminfo
47 /proc/meminfo

Count the number of lines

To count the number of lines in a text file we can use -l option. This Line count is the most commonly used option in wc command.

The following examples show how many lines are there in the '/home/linoxide/serverlist.txt' file:

$ wc -l /home/linoxide/serverlist.txt
320 /home/linoxide/serverlist.txt

Count the number of  words

If you like to count the number of words in a file you can use -w followed by the file name.

In the following examples, you can see that the file contains '700' words.

$ wc -w /home/linoxide/serverlist.txt
700 /home/linoxide/serverlist.txt

Count the number of bytes in file

The -c option can be used with wc command to display only the number of bytes in the file.

$ wc -c testfile
60 testfile

Count from multiple files

We can use wc command to take counts from multiple files.

In the following examples wc command read from multiple files:

$ wc sample.txt samplefile.txt
5 9 30 sample.txt
4 7 40 samplefile.txt
9 16 70 total

Use wc command with pipes

The wc command very commonly used with a combination of different commands with pipes. Let's check some examples.

Below one-liner command will count the number of times a word appears in a file:

$ cat file-name | grep -o 'word' | wc -l

To count the number of file and directories in the current directory

$ ls -1 | wc -l

To count the number of files in the current directory.

$ find . -type f | wc -l


$ find -type f -printf '.' | wc -c


In this tutorial we learned how to use wc command to count number lines, files and words. I hope you enjoyed reading and please leave your suggestions in the comment section.

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