HOST(1) BSD General Commands Manual HOST(1)


host − look up host names using domain server


host [−l] [−v] [−w] [−r] [−d] [−t querytype] [−a] host [server]


Host looks for information about Internet hosts. It gets this information from a set of interconnected servers that are spread across the country. By default, it simply converts between host names and Internet addresses. However, with the ‘‘−t’’ or ‘‘−a’’ options, it can be used to find all of the information about this host that is maintained by the domain server.

The arguments can be either host names or host numbers. The program first attempts to interpret them as host numbers. If this fails, it will treat them as host names. A host number consists of first decimal numbers separated by dots, e.g. A host name consists of names separated by dots, e.g. Unless the name ends in a dot, the local domain is automatically tacked on the end. Thus, a Rutgers user can say

host topaz

and it will actually look up "". If this fails, the name is tried unchanged (in this case, "topaz"). This same convention is used for mail and other network utilities. The actual suffix to tack on the end is obtained by looking at the results of a hostname(1) call, and using everything starting at the first dot. (See below for a description of CUSTOMIZING HOST NAME LOOKUP.)

The first argument is the host name you want to look up. If this is a number, an ‘‘inverse query’’ is done, i.e. the domain system looks in a separate set of databases used to convert numbers to names.

The second argument is optional. It allows you to specify a particular server to query. If you don’t specify this argument, the default server (normally the local machine) is used.

If a name is specified, you may see output of three different kinds. Here is an example that shows all of them:

% host sun4 is a nickname for ATHOS.RUTGERS.EDU




The user has typed the command ‘‘host sun4’’. The first line indicates that the name ‘‘’’ is actually a nickname. The official host name is ‘‘ATHOS.RUTGERS.EDU’’. The next two lines show the address. If a system has more than one network interface, there will be a separate address for each. The last line indicates that ATHOS.RUTGERS.EDU does not receive its own mail. Mail for it is taken by ARAMIS.RUTGERS.EDU. There may be more than one such line, since some systems have more than one other system that will handle mail for them. Technically, every system that can receive mail is supposed to have an entry of this kind. If the system receives its own mail, there should be an entry the mentions the system itself; for example,

XXX mail is handled by XXX

However, many systems that receive their own mail do not bother to mention that fact. If a system has a ‘‘mail is handled by’’ entry, but no address, this indicates that it is not really part of the Internet, but a system that is on the network will forward mail to it. Systems on Usenet, Bitnet, and a number of other networks have entries of this kind.


There are a number of options that can be used before the host name. Most of these options are meaningful only to the staff who have to maintain the domain database.

      −w’            This causes host to wait forever for a response.Normally it will time out after approximate one minute.

−v’ Use "verbose" format for printout. This is the official domain master file format, which is documented in the man page for named(8). Without this option, output still follows this format in general terms, but some attempt is made to make it more intelligible to normal users. Without ‘‘−v’’, any "a", "mx", and "cname" records are written out as "has address", "mail is handled by", and "is a nickname for" (respectively), and TTL and class fields are not shown.

−r’ Turn off recursion in the request. This means that the name server will return only data it has in its own database. It will not ask other servers for more information.

−d’ Turn on debugging. Network transactions are shown in detail.

−s’ Chase signatures back to parent key (DNSSEC).

−t querytype
Allows you to specify a particular querytype of information to be looked up. The arguments are defined in the man page for named(8). Currently-supported types include: ‘‘a’’, ‘‘ns’’, ‘‘md’’, ‘‘mf’’, ‘‘cname’’, ‘‘soa’’, ‘‘mb’’, ‘‘mg’’, ‘‘mr’’, ‘‘null’’, ‘‘wks’’, ‘‘ptr’’, ‘‘hinfo’’, ‘‘minfo’’, ‘‘mx’’, ‘‘uinfo’’, ‘‘uid’’, ‘‘gid’’, ‘‘unspec’’. Additionally, the wildcard, which may be written as either ‘‘any’’ or ‘‘*’’, can be used to specify any (all) of the above types. Types must be given in lower case. Note that the default is to look first for ‘‘a’’, and then ‘‘mx’’, except that if the verbose option is turned on, the default is only ‘‘a’’. The ‘‘−t’’ option is particularly useful for filtering information returned by host; see the explanation of the ‘‘−l’’ option, below, for more information.

−a’ ‘‘all’’; this is equivalent to ‘‘−v −t any’’.

−l’ List a complete domain; e.g.:

host -l

will give a listing of all hosts in the domain. The ‘‘−t’’ option is used to filter what information is presented, as you would expect. The default is address information, which also include PTR and NS records. The command

host -l -v -t any

will give a complete download of the zone data for, in the official master file format. (However the SOA record is listed twice, for arcane reasons.)

NOTE: ‘‘−l’’ is implemented by doing a complete zone transfer and then filtering out the information the you have asked for. This command should be used only if it is absolutely necessary.


In general, if the name supplied by the user does not have any dots in it, a default domain is appended to the end. This domain can be defined in /etc/resolv.conf, but is normally derived by taking the local hostname after its first dot. The user can override this, and specify a different default domain, using the environment variable LOCALDOMAIN. In addition, the user can supply his own abbreviations for host names. They should be in a file consisting of one line per abbreviation. Each line contains an abbreviation, a space, and then the full host name. The name file must be contained in the HOSTALIASES environment variable.


      HOSTALIASES’                    Name of file containing (host alias,full hostname) pairs.


      /etc/resolv.conf’                    See resolver(5).

HOSTALIASES’ Name of file containing (host alias, full hostname) pairs.


named(8), resolver(5).


Unexpected effects can happen when you type a name that is not part of the local domain. Please always keep in mind the fact that the local domain name is tacked onto the end of every name, unless it ends in a dot. Only if this fails is the name used unchanged.

The ‘‘−l’’ option only tries the first name server listed for the domain that you have requested. If this server is dead, you may need to specify a server manually. E.g., to get a listing of, you could try

host -t ns

to get a list of all the name servers for, and then try

host -l xxx

for all ‘‘xxx’’ on the list of name servers, until you find one that works.

4th Berkeley Distribution December 15, 1994 4th Berkeley Distribution