I'd like to write an elisp function that tells me the line number of the closest regex match above my current cursor position.

For example, if my cursor is on line 9 of the following file and my regex pattern is ^george, then the line number is 6.

 1  john
 2  paul
 3  george
 4  ringo
 5  hello world
 6  george ringo
 7  john paul
 8  hello george
 9  paul
10  george

1 Answer 1


You can use re-search-backward for the search and count-lines to get the line number.

Code example:

(defun re-match-line-backward (regexp &optional bound noerror count)
  "Return line number of match for REGEXP before point.
This uses `re-search-backward' with REGEXP, BOUND, NOERROR and COUNT.
It does not move point."
  (interactive (list (read-regexp "Regexp: ")))
    (when (re-search-backward regexp bound noerror count)
      (let ((line (1+ (count-lines (point-min) (line-beginning-position)))))
        (when (called-interactively-p 'any)
        (message "Regexp %s found at line %d" regexp line))
  • 1
    line-number-at-pos rather than count-lines, I think
    – rpluim
    Jul 19, 2022 at 9:26

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