I'm looking at this

One use of regexp-quote is to combine an exact string match with context described as a regular expression. For example, this searches for the string that is the value of string, surrounded by whitespace:

(re-search-forward  (concat "\\s-" (regexp-quote string) "\\s-"))

and wondering how to adapt it to do simply go through the file and search for a word that is surrounded by one or more spaces, i.e., whitespace. I'd like to do it as a regex search in the minibuffer. Tried Search/Regex Forward from the menu, also M-x : to type it as a command in the minibuffer -- all to no avail. Once again, I'm lost in a "guess-and-test" loop.

  • Are you looking for isearch-forward-regexp by any chance? It is bound to C-M-s and works just like isearch except that your input is treated as a regexp instead of a string. You can type \s-foo\s- to it to search for whitespace delimited foo.
    – NickD
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 13:21
  • BTW, isearch itself can look for a space delimited foo by just typing the literal spaces around foo.
    – NickD
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 13:23
  • Yes, thanks, NickD, that's what I was looking for, i.e., the isearch-forward-regexp. In my OP, I tried (re-search-forward (concat "\s-" "word" "\s-")) with M-: in the command line -- to no avail. Then I tried (re-search-forward (concat "\\s-" (regexp-quote "word") "\\s-")) which did work. A learning experience....
    – 147pm
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 5:08
  • 1
    In one of those you used "\s-" and in the other you used "\\s-". See emacs.stackexchange.com/a/55604/454 regarding backslashes in double-quoted strings.
    – phils
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 5:52

1 Answer 1


Not quite sure what you're looking for. This searches for a word surrounded by whitespace. User input for read-string is tested to be sure it is a word.

(defun foo (word)
   (let ((strg  (read-string "Word: ")))
     (while (not (string-match-p "\\`\\w+\\'" strg)) ; Not a word.  Prompt again.
       (setq strg  (read-string "Word: ")))
     (list strg)))
  (re-search-forward (concat "\\s-" (regexp-quote word) "\\s-")))

But if you're just wanting to search for a word interactively (not necessarily surrounded by whitespace), you can use word-search-forward or word-search-forward-lax, or for incremental search, just M-s w.

  • I was looking for how to run regex in the minibuffer with M-x: , i.e., how would I do the task I mentioned above.
    – 147pm
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 0:49
  • You mean that you want to use M-x to invoke a command that does something. What, exactly, is not too clear. If you want to search for a word that you input then the code in this answer should do that.
    – Drew
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 1:32
  • 1
    @147pm Well you've now changed the Question into something very different from what it was originally, thus rendering the existing Answer irrelevant. Please don't do that. You should instead ask a NEW question.
    – phils
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 5:39
  • 1
    @147pm I have rolled back that last edit to the Question. Please ask separately about regexp-quote (if there isn't an existing duplicate).
    – phils
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 5:41
  • 1
    And FYI emacs.stackexchange.com/q/13241/454 is such a duplicate.
    – phils
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 5:46

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