If I have a shell script with code like


and iskeyword is defined as


This definition indicates to me Vim will consider a continuous sequence of characters from these iskeywords characters to be a word.
So if I am here

 ^ (cursor)

and press w

     ^ (cursor)

I end up on + which is not the beginning of a word as defined by iskeyword character set. Why? Does Vim stop at the beginning of a group of these non-iskeyword chars because it considers you might be interested in doing something with them?

In this case, wouldn't it be better to say w takes you both to the beginning of the next "word" OR the beginning of the next "anti-word" (continuous sequence of characters NOT defined in iskeyword)?

Because code contains a lot of characters not in iskeyword, I am interested in knowing the rules for "w" word motion regarding these non-word characters.


I think the misunderstanding is that iskeyword doesn't define what a word is; rather, it adjusts where a boundary may happen by adjusting what a keyword is. Both keywords and non-keywords are still "words".

According to :help word:

A word consists of a sequence of letters, digits and underscores, or a sequence of other non-blank characters, separated with white space (spaces, tabs, ). This can be changed with the 'iskeyword' option. An empty line is also considered to be a word.

But, that doesn't quite answer your question exactly.

My understanding is that "iskeyword" is used to group the containing characters as a type of word called "keyword", but that doesn't mean that characters (except whitespace) outside of iskeyword aren't words, but are just non-keywords. Also, it seems that letters and high unicode is considered part of a keyword regardless (from help 'iskeyword' and help 'isfname').

As such, when you press w at the beginning of chars+=, the letters are considered part of the same word because they form a keyword, but since + and = are not in iskeyword, that makes them a non-keyword word, which means there is a word separation.

The behavior that I observe is that, outside of whitespace separation, keywords and non-keywords are considered words, and a transition from keyword to non-keyword or from non-keyword to keyword forms a word boundary, just like whitespace forms a word or WORD boundary.

  • interesting, I assumed vim uses the term "keyword" in the variable "iskeyword" (rather than "isword" ) because the iskeyword group serves more purposes than just motions, e.g. completions etc. Apr 2 '16 at 3:57
  • Thank you for clarifying this. Most explanations of the defintion of word/Word seem to imply that distinct words must be separated by something between them, be it a whitespace or some special non-word character. But in practice, distinct words can be adjacent to one another without any whitespace or non-words between them. So really the definiton of word shold be A word consists of a sequence of (letters OR digits OR underscores i.e. keywords), XOR (a sequence of other non-blank characters i.e. non-keywords), separated with white space (spaces, tabs, ) Aug 30 '20 at 22:47

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