I've used the information in this answer previously, but recently encountered a minimal installation with only vi. I edited the .vimrc in the user's home folder (~/.vimrc), but when typing jj, the literal text <esc> was entered within insert mode.

How does one do an inoremap for the escape key in vi?

1 Answer 1


The key syntax with brackets, such as <Esc>, is specific to Vim.

In plain vi, you need to enter an actual ESC character in your mapping.

You can do so by pressing Ctrl+V, followed by ESC, which will insert an actual ESC and will be displayed as ^[.

The command will look like:

:inoremap jj ^[

But note that the ^[ is a single ESC character and is entered with the sequence described above.

  • Thank you - I am familiar with escape sequences, but didn't realize this was required for vi. Will this also work in vim? I.e.: Can I use this for my .vimrc and whatever the analog file is for vi? Oct 16, 2019 at 4:29
  • Yes, literal escape sequences will work for Vim as well. In fact, they'll work in Vim even in compatible mode. The vi init file is typically ~/.exrc.
    – filbranden
    Oct 16, 2019 at 4:33

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