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This library is used on to detect blob languages, ignore binary or vendored files, suppress generated files in diffs, and generate language breakdown graphs.

See Troubleshooting and before filing an issue or creating a pull request.

How Linguist works

Linguist takes the list of languages it knows from languages.yml and uses a number of methods to try and determine the language used by each file, and the overall repository breakdown.

Linguist starts by going through all the files in a repository and excludes all files that it determines to be binary data, vendored code, generated code, documentation, or are defined as data (e.g. SQL) or prose (e.g. Markdown) languages, whilst taking into account any overrides.

If an explicit language override has been used, that language is used for the matching files. The language of each remaining file is then determined using the following strategies, in order, with each step either identifying the precise language or reducing the number of likely languages passed down to the next strategy:

  • Vim or Emacs modeline,
  • commonly used filename,
  • shell shebang,
  • file extension,
  • XML header,
  • man page section,
  • heuristics,
  • naïve Bayesian classification

The result of this analysis is used to produce the language stats bar which displays the languages percentages for the files in the repository. The percentages are calculated based on the bytes of code for each language as reported by the List Languages API.

language stats bar

How Linguist works on

When you push changes to a repository on, a low priority background job is enqueued to analyze your repository as explained above. The results of this analysis are cached for the lifetime of your repository and are only updated when the repository is updated. As this analysis is performed by a low priority background job, it can take a while, particularly during busy periods, for your language statistics bar to reflect your changes.



Install the gem:

gem install github-linguist


Linguist uses charlock_holmes for character encoding and rugged for libgit2 bindings for Ruby. These components have their own dependencies.

  1. charlock_holmes
  2. rugged

You may need to install missing dependencies before you can install Linguist. For example, on macOS with Homebrew:

brew install cmake pkg-config icu4c

On Ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install cmake pkg-config libicu-dev zlib1g-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev libssl-dev ruby-dev

Application usage

Linguist can be used in your application as follows:

require 'rugged'
require 'linguist'

repo ='.')
project =, repo.head.target_id)
project.language       #=> "Ruby"
project.languages      #=> { "Ruby" => 119387 }

Command line usage

Git Repository

A repository's languages stats can also be assessed from the command line using the github-linguist executable. Without any options, github-linguist will output the breakdown that correlates to what is shown in the language stats bar. The --breakdown flag will additionally show the breakdown of files by language.

cd /path-to-repository/

You can try running github-linguist on the root directory in this repository itself:

$ github-linguist --breakdown
68.57%  Ruby
22.90%  C
6.93%   Go
1.21%   Lex
0.39%   Shell


Single file

Alternatively you can find stats for a single file using the github-linguist executable.

You can try running github-linguist on files in this repository itself:

$ github-linguist grammars.yml
grammars.yml: 884 lines (884 sloc)
  type:      Text
  mime type: text/x-yaml
  language:  YAML


If you have Docker installed you can build an image and run Linguist within a container:

$ docker build -t linguist .
$ docker run --rm -v $(pwd):$(pwd) -w $(pwd) -t linguist
68.57%  Ruby
22.90%  C
6.93%   Go
1.21%   Lex
0.39%   Shell
$ docker run --rm -v $(pwd):$(pwd) -w $(pwd) -t linguist github-linguist --breakdown
68.57%  Ruby
22.90%  C
6.93%   Go
1.21%   Lex
0.39%   Shell



My repository is detected as the wrong language

If the language stats bar is reporting a language that you don't expect:

  1. Click on the name of the language in the stats bar to see a list of the files that are identified as that language. Keep in mind this performs a search so the code search restrictions may result in files identified in the language statistics not appearing in the search results. Installing Linguist locally and running it from the command line will give you accurate results.
  2. If you see files that you didn't write in the search results, consider moving the files into one of the paths for vendored code, or use the manual overrides feature to ignore them.
  3. If the files are misclassified, search for open issues to see if anyone else has already reported the issue. Any information you can add, especially links to public repositories, is helpful. You can also use the manual overrides feature to correctly classify them in your repository.
  4. If there are no reported issues of this misclassification, open an issue and include a link to the repository or a sample of the code that is being misclassified.

Keep in mind that the repository language stats are only updated when you push changes, and the results are cached for the lifetime of your repository. If you have not made any changes to your repository in a while, you may find pushing another change will correct the stats.

My repository isn't showing my language

Linguist does not consider vendored code, generated code, documentation, or data (e.g. SQL) or prose (e.g. Markdown) languages (as defined by the type attribute in languages.yml) when calculating the repository language statistics.

If the language statistics bar is not showing your language at all, it could be for a few reasons:

  1. Linguist doesn't know about your language.
  2. The extension you have chosen is not associated with your language in languages.yml.
  3. All the files in your repository fall into one of the categories listed above that Linguist excludes by default.

If Linguist doesn't know about the language or the extension you're using, consider contributing to Linguist by opening a pull request to add support for your language or extension. For everything else, you can use the manual overrides feature to tell Linguist to include your files in the language statistics.

There's a problem with the syntax highlighting of a file

Linguist detects the language of a file but the actual syntax-highlighting is powered by a set of language grammars which are included in this project as a set of submodules as listed here.

If you experience an issue with the syntax-highlighting on GitHub, please report the issue to the upstream grammar repository, not here. Grammars are updated every time we build the Linguist gem so upstream bug fixes are automatically incorporated as they are fixed.

I get an error when using Linguist on a directory that is not a Git repository

Linguist only works on Git repositories and individual files. Its primary use is on which uses bare repositories and thus changes need to be committed as individual files don't show on the filesystem.

As a work around you could initialise a temporary Git repository in your directory as demonstrated in this script.

Alternatively you can run Linguist on individual files, see above.


Linguist supports a number of different custom override strategies for language definitions and file paths.

Using gitattributes

Add a .gitattributes file to your project and use standard git-style path matchers for the files you want to override using the linguist-documentation, linguist-language, linguist-vendored, linguist-generated and linguist-detectable attributes. .gitattributes will be used to determine language statistics and will be used to syntax highlight files. You can also manually set syntax highlighting using Vim or Emacs modelines.

When testing with a local installation of Linguist, take note that the added attributes will not take effect until the .gitattributes file is committed to your repository.

File and folder paths inside .gitattributes are calculated relative to the position of the .gitattributes file.

# Example of a `.gitattributes` file which reclassifies `.rb` files as Java:
*.rb linguist-language=Java

# Replace any whitespace in the language name with hyphens:
*.glyphs linguist-language=OpenStep-Property-List

Vendored code

Checking code you didn't write, such as JavaScript libraries, into your git repo is a common practice, but this often inflates your project's language stats and may even cause your project to be labeled as another language. By default, Linguist treats all of the paths defined in vendor.yml as vendored and therefore doesn't include them in the language statistics for a repository.

Use the linguist-vendored attribute to vendor or un-vendor paths:

special-vendored-path/* linguist-vendored
jquery.js -linguist-vendored


Just like vendored files, Linguist excludes documentation files from your project's language stats. documentation.yml lists common documentation paths and excludes them from the language statistics for your repository.

Use the linguist-documentation attribute to mark or unmark paths as documentation:

project-docs/* linguist-documentation
docs/formatter.rb -linguist-documentation

Generated code

Not all plain text files are true source files. Generated files like minified JavaScript and compiled CoffeeScript can be detected and excluded from language stats. As an added bonus, unlike vendored and documentation files, these files are suppressed in diffs. generated.rb lists common generated paths and excludes them from the language statistics of your repository.

Use the linguist-generated attribute to mark or unmark paths as generated.

Api.elm linguist-generated


Only programming languages are included in the language statistics. Languages of a different type (as defined in languages.yml) are not "detectable" causing them not to be included in the language statistics.

Use the linguist-detectable attribute to mark or unmark paths as detectable:

*.kicad_pcb linguist-detectable
*.sch linguist-detectable
tools/ -linguist-detectable

Using Emacs or Vim modelines

If you do not want to use .gitattributes to override the syntax highlighting used on, you can use Vim or Emacs style modelines to set the language for a single file. Modelines can be placed anywhere within a file and are respected when determining how to syntax-highlight a file on

# Some examples of various styles:
vim: syntax=java
vim: set syntax=ruby:
vim: set filetype=prolog:
vim: set ft=cpp:
-*- mode: php; -*-
-*- c++ -*-


Please check out our contributing guidelines.


The language grammars included in this gem are covered by their repositories' respective licenses. vendor/ lists the repository for each grammar.

All other files are covered by the MIT license, see LICENSE.