I was using Windows and Ubuntu previously and in their terminal, when I used to press Ctrl + Backspace it used to delete the last word till any punctuation. For example, if I had typed:

ls -l /usr/local/foo

on the terminal and pressed Ctrl + Backspace, then the result would be ls -l /usr/local/.

I am very new to the Mac world and searched a lot of places but I could not find this behaviour. I did find that Ctrl+W deletes the entire word till whitespace and the result would be ls -l.

I would like to keep this Ctrl+W behaviour as well as get back the Ctrl + Backspace behaviour that I had on Windows and Ubuntu.

How can I achieve this?

  • Firstly, welcome to Ask Different! :) I hope you come to find this site has a lot to offer! In case you haven't already, it's worth taking the time to read the tour. All the best!
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 8:34
  • This is no OS feature, but one of the shell you use.
    – bot47
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 8:42

1 Answer 1


To get this to work the way you want, you have to set the option key to be used as a Meta key. To do this:

  1. Launch Terminal
  2. Go to Terminal > Preferences...
  3. Select the Profiles icon at top
  4. Select the profile you're using from the lefthand side
  5. Click on the Keyboard tab on the righthand side
  6. Now tick the Use Option as Meta key checkbox at bottom of the screen
  7. Exit preferences

Now to achieve what you want, do as follows:

Press option + delete to delete back one word

  • Just a note - if you have a regular (PC, I guess) keyboard connected, it's Alt + Backspace. Alt + Delete produces an opening parentheses. Anyway, could you explain what that setting exactly does and if it has any other effects, please? Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 1:54

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