Updated: 09/03/2019 by Computer Hope

Esc may refer to any of the following:

Esc key on the keyboard

1. Short for Escape, Esc is a key found on the top-left corner of a computer keyboard and allows the user to abort or cancel an operation. 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 it to timeout. 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


Apple Macbooks with the Touch Bar do not have a physical Esc key.

Why and where is the Esc key used?

An Escape key is used in a program when you want to abort, cancel or change what is currently being displayed on the screen. Below are some difference places the Escape key is commonly used.

Does the Esc key send a break?

With some early computers, the Esc key was used to send a break. However, today the Esc key is not used to perform a break. With a PC you can usually press Ctrl+C to send a break and stop a loop.

2. Escape is shorthand for an escape character. An escape character is a single backward slash ( \ ) in Linux, programming, and regular expressions that treats the character after it as text and not a function. It can also be used to perform a special function. Below are some examples of how an escape could be used.

\" or \'

The above example treats 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 "Example of a \" quote."; would print Example of a " quote. Without escaping the quote, the Perl script would generate an error because of the extra quote.


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


This next example is similar to the first example because the period is also a wildcard, which represents any single character. So, if you need to match a period in a regular expression and not every character, you must escape it to be recognized as a period.


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 page 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.

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