How can I get bash to perform tab-completion for my aliases?

The following code, adapted from this Stack Overflow answer and this Ubuntu Forums discussion thread will add completions for all your defined aliases:

# Automatically add completion for all aliases to commands having completion functions
function alias_completion {
    local namespace="alias_completion"

    # parse function based completion definitions, where capture group 2 => function and 3 => trigger
    local compl_regex='complete( +[^ ]+)* -F ([^ ]+) ("[^"]+"|[^ ]+)'
    # parse alias definitions, where capture group 1 => trigger, 2 => command, 3 => command arguments
    local alias_regex="alias ([^=]+)='(\"[^\"]+\"|[^ ]+)(( +[^ ]+)*)'"

    # create array of function completion triggers, keeping multi-word triggers together
    eval "local completions=($(complete -p | sed -Ene "/$compl_regex/s//'\3'/p"))"
    (( ${#completions[@]} == 0 )) && return 0

    # create temporary file for wrapper functions and completions
    rm -f "/tmp/${namespace}-*.tmp" # preliminary cleanup
    local tmp_file; tmp_file="$(mktemp "/tmp/${namespace}-${RANDOM}XXX.tmp")" || return 1

    local completion_loader; completion_loader="$(complete -p -D 2>/dev/null | sed -Ene 's/.* -F ([^ ]*).*/\1/p')"

    # read in "<alias> '<aliased command>' '<command args>'" lines from defined aliases
    local line; while read line; do
        eval "local alias_tokens; alias_tokens=($line)" 2>/dev/null || continue # some alias arg patterns cause an eval parse error
        local alias_name="${alias_tokens[0]}" alias_cmd="${alias_tokens[1]}" alias_args="${alias_tokens[2]# }"

        # skip aliases to pipes, boolean control structures and other command lists
        # (leveraging that eval errs out if $alias_args contains unquoted shell metacharacters)
        eval "local alias_arg_words; alias_arg_words=($alias_args)" 2>/dev/null || continue
        # avoid expanding wildcards
        read -a alias_arg_words <<< "$alias_args"

        # skip alias if there is no completion function triggered by the aliased command
        if [[ ! " ${completions[*]} " =~ " $alias_cmd " ]]; then
            if [[ -n "$completion_loader" ]]; then
                # force loading of completions for the aliased command
                eval "$completion_loader $alias_cmd"
                # 124 means completion loader was successful
                [[ $? -eq 124 ]] || continue
        local new_completion="$(complete -p "$alias_cmd")"

        # create a wrapper inserting the alias arguments if any
        if [[ -n $alias_args ]]; then
            local compl_func="${new_completion/#* -F /}"; compl_func="${compl_func%% *}"
            # avoid recursive call loops by ignoring our own functions
            if [[ "${compl_func#_$namespace::}" == $compl_func ]]; then
                local compl_wrapper="_${namespace}::${alias_name}"
                    echo "function $compl_wrapper {
                        (( COMP_CWORD += ${#alias_arg_words[@]} ))
                        COMP_WORDS=($alias_cmd $alias_args \${COMP_WORDS[@]:1})
                        (( COMP_POINT -= \${#COMP_LINE} ))
                        COMP_LINE=\${COMP_LINE/$alias_name/$alias_cmd $alias_args}
                        (( COMP_POINT += \${#COMP_LINE} ))
                    }" >> "$tmp_file"
                    new_completion="${new_completion/ -F $compl_func / -F $compl_wrapper }"

        # replace completion trigger by alias
        new_completion="${new_completion% *} $alias_name"
        echo "$new_completion" >> "$tmp_file"
    done < <(alias -p | sed -Ene "s/$alias_regex/\1 '\2' '\3'/p")
    source "$tmp_file" && rm -f "$tmp_file"
}; alias_completion

For simple (command only, no arguments) aliases it will assign the original completion function to the alias; for aliases with arguments, it creates a wrapper function that inserts the extra arguments into the original completion function.

Unlike the scripts it has evolved from, the function respects quotes both for the alias command and its arguments (but the former have to be matched by the completion command, and cannot be nested), and it should reliably filter out aliases to command lists and pipes (which are skipped, as it is impossible to find out what to complete in them without re-creating the complete shell command line parsing logic).


Either save the code as a shell script file and source that in, or copy the function wholesale into, .bashrc (or your pertinent dot file). The important thing is to call the function after both bash completion and alias definitions have been set up (the code above calls the function right after its definition, in a “source and forget” spirit, but you can move the call anywhere downstream if that suits you better). If you don’t want the function in your environment after it exits, you can add unset -f alias_completion after calling it.


If you are using bash 4.1 or above and use dynamically-loaded completions, the script will attempt to load completions for all of your aliased commands so that it can build the wrapper functions for your aliases.

Is there a way to generically/programmatically get all of my completion scripts to work with my aliases?

Yes, here is the complete-alias project which solves your problem exactly. It provides generic and programmatic alias completion without using eval.

This is the manual way, for those that are looking for this.

First, look up the original completion command. Example:

$ complete | grep git

complete -o bashdefault -o default -o nospace -F __git_wrap__git_main git

Now add these to your startup script (e.g. ~/.bashrc):

# load dynamically loaded completion functions (may not be required)
_completion_loader git

# copy the original statement, but replace the last command (git) with your alias (g)
complete -o bashdefault -o default -o nospace -F __git_wrap__git_main g