When I incrementally search for a phrase with C-S, emacs usually highlights all matching results visible in the buffer by giving them a different background color. However, my current theme apparently uses the same background color as the normal background color, meaning I can't see the difference.

How can I specify a background color for matching search results?

1 Answer 1


You are looking for the lazy-highlight face.

You didn't mention what color your background is, so modify the below as needed:

(set-face-attribute 'lazy-highlight nil :background "green")

Similarly, you can set the foreground color with:

(set-face-attribute 'lazy-highlight nil :foreground "black")

And you can combine the two with:

(set-face-attribute 'lazy-highlight nil :foreground "black" :background "green")

To figure out what face needed to be modified, I did M-x describe-char as described in this answer. I first had to set lazy-highlight-cleanup to nil so that the selection wasn't cleared when exiting the isearch.

  • Perfect. I also ended up setting the foreground color with (set-face-attribute 'lazy-highlight nil :foreground "black")
    – Ben
    Aug 4, 2016 at 19:51
  • @Ben: You can also combine the two; see my updated answer. Aug 4, 2016 at 20:26
  • I have tried (set-face-attribute 'lazy-highlight nil :foreground "black" :background "green") which does not change the selected main word on the isearch
    – alper
    Jan 31, 2020 at 22:27

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