wc - Linux


The wc (word count) command is a simple utility in Linux that displays the number of lines, words, and bytes contained in a file or provided through standard input. It is primarily used for text data analysis and summary, making it a valuable tool in scripting, text processing, and statistical reporting tasks.


The basic syntax of the wc command is as follows:

wc [OPTIONS]... [FILES]...
  • [OPTIONS]: These are the flags or options added to modify the output of the command.
  • [FILES]: One or more files to analyze. If no file is specified, or if ‘-‘ is used, wc reads from standard input.


  • -c, --bytes: Display the byte counts.
  • -m, --chars: Display the character counts.
  • -l, --lines: Count the lines.
  • -w, --words: Count words.
  • -L, --max-line-length: Print the length of the longest line.
  • --files0-from=F: Read input from the files specified by null-terminated names in file F; If F is ‘-‘ then read names from standard input.

Each option is designed to tailor the output to specific needs, such as analyzing file size (-c), content length (-l), or word usage (-w). By default, wc outputs lines, words, and bytes when no option is specified.


  1. Basic Word Count:

    wc myfile.txt

    This displays the number of lines, words, and bytes in myfile.txt.

  2. Count Bytes:

    wc -c myfile.txt

    Outputs the byte count of the file.

  3. Count Lines of Multiple Files:

    wc -l file1.txt file2.txt

    This prints the number of lines in each file as well as a total line count for all files.

  4. Using Pipes with wc:

    cat myfile.txt | wc -w

    Counts the words in the output of cat.

  5. Find the Longest Line Length:

    wc -L myfile.txt

    Prints the length of the longest line in myfile.txt.

Common Issues

  • File Accessibility: wc may not be able to read files that do not have proper read permissions. Ensure you have the appropriate rights or use sudo if necessary.
  • Handling special characters: By default, wc counts characters like spaces and tabs which might be misleading in certain contexts. Adjusting the input file or using additional text processing tools can resolve this.


wc can be combined with other commands like find, grep, or sort to perform more complex text analysis tasks. Here’s how you might use wc with others:

find . -type f -name '*.txt' -exec wc -w {} +

This command finds all .txt files in the current directory and subdirectories, counting the words in each.

  • cat: Display the contents of a file or concatenate several files.
  • sort: Sort lines of text in specified files.
  • grep: Search for a specific pattern within files.

Further resources for more detailed study or related topics can be found in the GNU core utilities documentation or man pages (e.g., man wc in the terminal).