ESC keyboard key1. Short for Escape, Esc is a key located on the top-left of a computer keyboard that allows a user to cancel or abort operations. For example, if a slow web page was loading on an Internet browser you could press the escape key to stop the download and not have to wait for a download. In the picture to the right, is a close up picture of what the Esc key looks like on a computer keyboard.

Where is the escape key on the keyboard?

Below is an overview of a computer keyboard with the Esc key highlighted in blue.

Esc key

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2. Escape is also shorthand for an escape character, an escape is a single backward slash ( \ ) in Linux, programming, and regular expressions that perform a special function or to have a character treated as plain text and not a function. Below are some examples of how an escape could be used.


The above example would treat the asterisk as a plain text asterisk and not as a wild card or metacharacter.


This next example is similar to the first example because the period is also a wild card, which represents any single character. So, if you need match a period and not every character you must escape it.

\" or \'

The above example would treat the quote character as a quote character and not a beginning or end container. For example, in programming languages such as Perl this is required if you're printing text to a file or the screen that contains a quote. In other words, the command print "This is a \" quote."; would print This is a " quote without escaping the quote in the middle you would receive an error.


When a file name or directory needs a space in Linux you can use a backward slash followed by a space, to escape the space in a name. If this isn't done, Linux will treat anything after the space as an option or additional command.


Finally, escape characters are also used in escape sequences, to create a function or command. For example, the above \n would create a newline character to the file or screen. See our escape sequence definition for additional examples.

3. Short for escalation, esc is used to describe or refer to an escalation number dealing with an important customer related issue.

Also see: Cancel, Escape sequence, Keyboard terms, Magic quotes, Meta-character, Programming terms, Stop