Count words, bytes and lines in a file (wc command)

In this article, we would cover how to count words, bytes and lines in a file using wc command-line utility. The following is the syntax for wc command –

wc [options] [file_name]

We explain the command-line utility – wc through relevant examples next.

Count lines, words and characters in a file

Let’s say we have a text file test. And, it has 16 words and 77 characters spread across 3 lines.

Hello World!
It is a test file to check for
number of lines, words and bytes

So, if we use the basic wc command without any options then,

wc test

It would return with the following output –

3 16 77 test

From the above we can see that, though it doesn’t specifically elaborate the data, the first output is for number of lines, then comes the words and lastly the number of characters in the file test. And, the following order is specified in its man pages for the output –

newline, word, character, byte, maximum line length

But, what if we just want to know the number of words or something else in a file. In that case, we need to use options along-with wc command. So, for number of words

wc -w test

It returns with –

16 test

To count the number of lines

wc -l test

Outcome –

3 test

And, to count the number of characters in the file –

wc -m test

Here, the output would be –

77 test

Bytes and maximum display width in a file

Up till now, we have covered number of lines, words and characters. Next is byte size, we use -c option

wc -c test

It would return with –

77 test

And, lastly to print the maximum display width

wc -L test

Output –

32 test

wc on multiples files

With the basics done, we can also check the data for multiple files as well. Let’s say, if we have the copy of file test as test1 –

cp test test1

Now, to check for both the files –

wc test test1

The outcome is self-explanatory –

3 16 77 test
3 16 77 test1
6 32 154 total

Apart from that, we can also use special characters like (*) – asterisk

wc test*

We can also use options with multiples files as well –

wc -w test test1

Output –

16 test
16 test1
32 total

In conclusion, we have covered various wc command-line options here through relevant examples.