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15.4 Symbol Search

A symbol search is much like an ordinary search, except that the boundaries of the search must match the boundaries of a symbol. The meaning of symbol in this context depends on the major mode, and usually refers to a source code token, such as a Lisp symbol in Emacs Lisp mode. For instance, if you perform an incremental symbol search for the Lisp symbol forward-word, it would not match isearch-forward-word. This feature is thus mainly useful for searching source code.

M-s _
If incremental search is active, toggle symbol search mode (isearch-toggle-symbol); otherwise, begin an incremental forward symbol search (isearch-forward-symbol).
M-s .
Start a symbol incremental search forward with the symbol found near point added to the search string initially.
M-s _ <RET> symbol <RET>
Search forward for symbol, nonincrementally.
M-s _ C-r <RET> symbol <RET>
Search backward for symbol, nonincrementally.

To begin a forward incremental symbol search, type M-s _ (or M-s . if the symbol to search is near point). If incremental search is not already active, this runs the command isearch-forward-symbol. If incremental search is already active, M-s _ switches to a symbol search, preserving the direction of the search and the current search string; you can disable symbol search by typing M-s _ again. In incremental symbol search, while you are typing the search string, only the beginning of the search string is required to match the beginning of a symbol, and ‘Pending’ appears in the search prompt until you use a search repeating key like C-s.

To begin a nonincremental symbol search, type M-s _ <RET> for a forward search, or M-s _ C-r <RET> or a backward search. In nonincremental symbol searches, the beginning and end of the search string are required to match the beginning and end of a symbol, respectively.

The symbol search commands don't perform character folding, and toggling lax whitespace matching (see lax space matching) has no effect on them.