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9 whois: User interface to WHOIS data bases.

The functionality of a world wide Internet is dependent on stored node information of different kinds. Registrars keep much relevant material in WHOIS data bases. This utility whois is able to query those sources for general and for particular properties of most domains.

For many domains there are names of suitable data base servers hard coded into whois, ready to query for domain relevant information. Since servers’ names do change from time to time, this utility might occasionally need some guidance using a suitable command line option.



9.1 Command line options


Search all data bases.


Fast and raw output. Implies -r.

-g source:first-last

Find updates for an object from provider source, starting from the version with serial key first, and ending with serial key last.

-h host

Connect to server host.


Hide legal disclaimers.

-i attr[,attr2…]

Do an inverse lookup for specified attributes. Use a comma separated list for multiple attributes.


One level less specific lookup. Applies to RPSL only.


Find all less specific matches.


Find more specific matches, one level deeper.


Find all more specific matches.

-p port

Connect to server port port.

-q {version|sources}

Query specified server info. Applies to RPSL only.


Turn off recursive lookups.


Force output to show local copy of the domain object, even if it contains a referral.

-s source[,source2…]

Search the data base at source. A comma separated list queries multiple providers.


Tell server to refrain from syntactic sugar.

-t type

Request a template for objects of type type. Use the value ‘all’ for a list of possible types.

-T type[,type2…]

Search only for objects of type type. A comma separated list allows for multiple types.


Verbosely explain all actions taken.


Search only for exact matches. Applicable only to RPSL.

9.2 Environment variables

whois holds an internal list of information servers and their assigned data bases. Queries are examined against this list to select the most plausible server, but the hint can always be overruled on the command line by use of the option -h. If neither of these have a say, then the default server to ask is ‘’, but this name is in turn overruled by a server name in the environment variable WHOIS_SERVER.


When the server ‘’ is queried, and only then, any non-Japanese locale in LANG will ask the server to reply with English text, not Japanese.


When set, the effect on whois is as if the option -H had been given.


Data base server to query when internal hinting is inconclusive. When unset, ‘’ is used as default server.

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