When I press CTRL-H in emacs running on my xterm, then this is interpreted as backspace and the character before the point is deleted. I've found various discussions about the "opposite" issue (pressing backspace invokes help), but was unable to modify them to my needs.

How can I access help commands (like the describe functions) from a emacs -nw running in an xterm with the keystroke CTRL-H ?

GNU Emacs 24.5.2, XTerm(312), NixOS x86_64, empty .emacs

1 Answer 1


Use M-x normal-erase-is-backspace-mode.

See the Emacs manual, node DEL Does Not Delete.

In all of those cases, the immediate remedy is the same: use the command M-x normal-erase-is-backspace-mode.


Another way to fix the problem for every Emacs session is to customize the variable normal-erase-is-backspace: the value t specifies the mode where <BS> or <BACKSPACE> is <DEL>, and nil specifies the other mode.

  • Indeed, works. And I think I also begin to understand why. Thank you very much! Oct 19, 2015 at 19:48

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