wc - macOS


wc (word count) is a command-line utility that counts and displays the number of lines, words, and bytes contained within a given file or input stream. It’s commonly used for text analysis and statistical purposes.


wc [options] path/to/file


  • -c, --bytes: Print the total number of bytes in the file.
  • -m, --chars: Print the total number of characters (including whitespace) in the file.
  • -l, --lines: Print the total number of lines in the file.
  • -w, --words: Print the total number of words in the file. Default behavior.
  • -L, --max-line-length: Print the length of the longest line in the file.


Count lines, words, and bytes in a file:

wc my_file.txt


6 12 100 my_file.txt

Count lines of stdin:

echo "Hello World" | wc -l



Count characters in a file:

wc -m my_file.txt

Common Issues

  • Unexpected character count: This can occur when dealing with non-ASCII characters. Use wc -m for more accurate character counts.
  • Incorrect word count: Words are separated by whitespace by default. Use tr to change the separator if needed.


wc can be combined with other commands for more complex tasks:

  • Counting words in a directory:
find . -type f -exec wc -w {} \;
  • Finding the longest line in multiple files:
wc -L file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt | sort -nr | head -1
  • tr: Translate or delete characters.
  • split: Split a file into smaller pieces.
  • sort: Sort lines of text.