As question imply, I'm trying to make a command based on the word under cursor, but that is between two character, in this example, asterisk.

Inspired from here, I made:

map <F3> "zyiw:exe "h "expand("<cword>")""<CR>

Where i use it on h for testing.

*E426* "works
*:ta*  "works
*:tag* "only match *tag* instead of *:tag*
*tag*  "works

But even though it seems to work fine for *:ta*, it doesn't seem to work right for *:tag*.

I'm aware one need to add characters/symbol to iskeyword so that it is correctly matched as a word, but in this instance, i didn't need to do so (though that only worked for *:ta* and not *:tag* as previously mentioned).

Slightly related to this post.

  • 1
    I would have written your mapping as nnoremap <F3> :execute 'help' expand('<cword>')<cr> but I’m not sure it makes a difference
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 14:23
  • yeah...any idea to make this work? I tried what was showed in the wikia linked in my post, but that didn't quite worked (which is why i ended up using cword in the first place) @D.BenKnoble Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 19:02
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    Try using <cWORD> instead. That seemed to work for me.
    – Tumbler41
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 23:58
  • this...actually work!!! I do not know what is the difference (looked into help but didn't see any difference beside that one is uppercase and the other isn't) but it did took me a longer time than i thought to know this...so thank you (and feel free to post this as answer if you want). @Tumbler41 Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


There's <cword>, which essentially uses the characters in 'iskeyword' to determine what a "word" means, and also <cWORD> which matches a sequence of non-whitespace characters.

For the former, <cword>, by default it will not include symbols such as : and *, so in your specific case, when your cursor is on *:tag* it will only get tag, and when your cursor is on *:ta* it will only get ta.

You seem to be under the impression that it's behaving differently because of how the :help command works when it doesn't match a help topic exactly.

The help system has tags for both the command :tag and an explanation on what a tag is. So :help :tag will take you to the former, while :help tag will take you to the latter.

On the other hand, there's no exact match for ta by itself. So when you look for :help ta, Vim will try to "guess" what you meant by that. In particular, it will try to see if it's a valid Ex command (by prepending a :) and, since there is such a help topic, it will take you to the help on :ta.

If you want to find the exact expression inside the *s, you can either use <cWORD> and then use Vimscript functions to filter out the *s from the resulting expression, or you can use a yank to capture it. For example:

nnoremap <F3> :exe 'help '.substitute(expand('<cWORD>'), '^\*\\|\*$', '', 'g')<CR>
  • 1
    perfect. Also illustrated the misunderstanding i had previously :) Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 21:01

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