If I'm editing a text file with :set spell, is there any way to have vim not check words within the boundaries of certain characters against the word list? I want to be able to write things like proper nouns or technical vocabulary (or even 'sic' quotations) but not have to add them to the wordlist.

  • 1
    I think this needs proper syntax support. Commented May 16, 2019 at 10:00
  • @ChristianBrabandt I take it to mean this is not possible then ? Or, at least not with what capacity vim has already for handling (highlighting, indentation, etc.) different syntax ?
    – myc3lium
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 11:09
  • 1
    What Christian means is that you can do it, but only through the @nospell keyword in syntax highlight files (see :help syn-spell). What kind of file are you editing? Does it already have existing syntax highlighting? Commented May 16, 2019 at 12:00

2 Answers 2


You can add your own syntax element (probably overriding existing one):

syntax match quoteblock /"[^"]\+"/ contains=@NoSpell
  • syntax match: Tells vim this is a syntax command
  • quoteblock: The name of our match (Could be anything)
  • /"..."/: Match things between quotes
  • [^"]\+: Match anything that's not a quote
  • contains=@NoSpell: Tells vim not to use spell check on this match

It is just an example and not very smart :). In my case it stops checking spelling inside quotes:

enter image description here


You can add to your vimrc the mapping such as:

nnoremap <leader>s :syntax match quoteblock /"[^"]\+"/ contains=@NoSpell<CR>

Then press <leader>s (you know what <leader> is right?) to add this syntax element to the current buffer.

Another option is to add a command:

command! TurnOffSpellcheckForQuotes :syntax match quoteblock /"[^"]\+"/ contains=@NoSpell

Then just run this command from vim :TurnOffSpellcheckForQuotes

  • Do I just put this into my rc file then ?
    – myc3lium
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 14:01
  • Yes, this should work in your vimrc.
    – Tumbler41
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 14:16
  • @myc3lium make sure it works for your files (text? c++? latex? markdown?) -- open your file and enter the command from the answer :syntax.... Then if it works it would be better to create an autocommand that will source :syntax.. for you specific filetypes. And this should be in your vimrc
    – Maxim Kim
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 17:10
  • You can also enable it upon opening each file by putting :au Syntax * :syntax match … in your vimrc, provided that you did :syntax enable before that.
    – Maëlan
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 23:17

If your file already have a syntax highlight, such as vim. You can do it like this:


Add following function and command to your vimrc:

function! s:synstack()
  if !exists('*synstack') | return | endif
  return map(synstack(line('.'), col('.')), 'synIDattr(v:val, "name")')
command! Synstack echo s:synstack()

Assume current file content like this:

function! Foo()
  return "balabala"

Get Syntax name

place your cursor at balabala, execute :Synstack, output is:

['vimFuncBody', 'vimString']

It's stack of current syntax, from outside function to current string. vimString is syntax name of string in vim.

Get Syntax definition

syntax list vimString
--- Syntax items ---
vimString      xxx start=/[^a-zA-Z>!\\@]"/ms=s+1,lc=1 skip=/\\\\\|\\"/ matchgroup=vimStringEnd end=/"/  oneline keepend contains=@vimStringGroup 
                   start=/[^a-zA-Z>!\\@]'/ms=s+1,lc=1 end=/'/  oneline keepend 
                   start=/=!/ms=s+1,lc=1 skip=/\\\\\|\\!/ end=/!/  oneline contains=@vimStringGroup 
                   start=/=+/ms=s+1,lc=1 skip=/\\\\\|\\+/ end=/+/  oneline contains=@vimStringGroup 
                   start=+\s/\s*\A+ms=s+1,lc=1 skip=/\\\\\|\\+/ end=+/+  oneline contains=@vimStringGroup 
                   match /"[^"]*\\$/  contained nextgroup=vimStringCont skipnl 
                   match /[^(,]'[^']\{-}\zs'/  
                   start=/^\s*\\\z(['"]\)/ skip=/\\\\\|\\\z1/ end=/\z1/  oneline keepend contains=@vimStringGroup,vimContinue 
                   links to String

I don't understand above output, the only thing matters is contains=@vimStringGroup. So this syntax contains a cluster called vimStringGroup

Add NoSpell to cluster

syntax cluster vimStringGroup add=@NoSpell


  • :h :syn-contain
  • :h :syn-cluster
  • :h :spell-syntax

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