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Search for a string in your git history with git log

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Recently, I discovered a useful functionality of git log while cleaning up some code. You can pass an option to git log to get back a list of all the commits that changed a particular string. Let's explore that feature!

Using git log -S

If you want to find all the occurrences of a specific string in your git history, git log -S is perfect for the job.

For example, if you look for a particular component in a React app, you can type:

git log -S ContentWrapper

It will return a list of all the commits where that string appears:

commit ab68707f03a5636c399213194a32c29d631e7c2b
Author: Olivia Coumans <>
Date:   Tue Jan 4 11:03:34 2022 +0100
  feat(styles): create PageContentWrapper comp

commit 5e79c7fa417c5a58b7b6c6bfb71de318686a6210
Author: Olivia Coumans <>
Date:   Thu Dec 30 12:57:15 2021 +0100
  feat(footer): add site footer

You can then use git show [COMMIT_HASH] to display the content of a commit with all the diffs.

git show ab68707

Bonus: list all the commits that modified a file

git log -p FILE_PATH is a quick way to list all the commits that modified a specific file.

Don't hesitate to pass flags to customize the output of git log:

git log --name-only --oneline -p ./components/SiteHeader/SiteHeader.tsx

The above example will only display the hash and the name of each commit that modified the file.

Conclusion and further resources

With git log and some of its options, you can quickly find out when some piece of code was removed or added while staying in your terminal. I hope it will be helpful for you too!

Some further resources: