spell - GNU Spell, a clone of Unix ’spell’


spell [OPTION]... [FILE]...


GNU Spell is a spelling checking program which prints each misspelled word on a line of its own. It is designed as a clone of the standard Unix ’spell’ program, and implemented as a wrapper for Ispell.

Spell accepts as its arguments a list of files to read from. Within that list, the magical file name ’-’ causes Spell to read from standard input. In addition, when called with no file name arguments, Spell assumes that it should process standard input.

Spell is most useful when used in conjunction with other programs, because its output is minimalistic. Human users are usually more comfortable with verbose output.


-I, --ispell-version

Print Ispell’s version.

-V, --version

Print the version number.

-b, --british

Use the British dictionary.

-d, --dictionary=FILE

Use FILE to look up words.

-h, --help

Print a summary of the options.

-i, --ispell=PROGRAM

Calls PROGRAM as Ispell.

-D, --ispell-dictionary=DICTIONARY

Use the named DICTIONARY to look up words.

-l, --all-chains

Ignored; for compatibility.

-n, --number

Print line numbers before lines.

-o, --print-file-name

Print file names before lines.

-s, --stop-list=FILE

Ignored; for compatibility.

-v, --verbose

Print words not literally found.

-x, --print-stems

Ignored; for compatibility.


In the first example below, the words printed on standard output are all the (purposely) misspelled words in ’sample’ file. Notice the options ’--print-file-name’ and ’--number’ They are responsible for the prefix you see on each line.

$ spell --print-file-name --number sample
sample:1: Tihs
sample:1: si
sample:1: fo
sample:1: Splel
sample:1: worsd
sample:1: spellled
sample:1: worng
sample:2: fi
sample:2: cna
sample:2: dael
sample:2: fiel
sample:2: Foo
sample:2: bza
sample:2: baz

In the following example, spell will analyze a text from single a command line.

$echo "Thiz is an examply" | spell

After install ’ibrazilian’ (# apt install ibrazilian, on Debian systems) is possible to use ’brazilian’ as dictionary:

$ echo "Eu sou brasileiro e carioka" | spell -D brazilian

To use personal dictionary called mydict.txt:

$ echo "A little test" | spell -d mydict.txt



Considering Spell as a wrapper for Ispell, is possible to make a personal and complementary dictionary using this file. Insert a word per line.


ispell(1), aspell(1)


Spell was written by Thomas Morgan <tmorgan [AT]> for the Free Software Foundation, Inc.

The first version of this manual page was written by Dominik Kubla <dominik [AT]>.

The current version was fully rewritten by Joao Eriberto Mota Filho <eriberto [AT]>.

Since the first version, this manual page was written for the Debian project (but may be used by others).