host – DNS lookup utility

host [ -aCdlnrTwv ] [ -c class ] [ -N ndots ] [ -R number ] [ -t type ] [ -W wait ] name [ server ]

An alternative to dig is a command called “host“. This command functions in a very similar way to dig, with many of the same options.


host is a simple utility for performing DNS lookups. It is normally used to convert names to IP addresses and vice versa. When no arguments or options are given, host prints a short summary of its command line arguments and options.

name is the domain name that is to be looked up. It can also be a dotted-decimal IPv4 address or a colon-delimited IPv6 address, in which case host will by default perform a reverse lookup for that address. server is an optional argument which is either the name or IP address of the name server that host should query instead of the server or servers listed in/etc/resolv.conf.

The -a (all) option is equivalent to setting the -v option and asking host to make a query of type ANY.

When the -C option is used, host will attempt to display the SOA records for zone name from all the listed authoritative name servers for that zone. The list of name servers is defined by the NS records that are found for the zone.

The -c option instructs to make a DNS query of class class. This can be used to lookup Hesiod or Chaosnet class resource records. The default class is IN (Internet).

Verbose output is generated by host when the -d or -v option is used. The two options are equivalent. They have been provided for backwards compatibility. In previous versions, the -d option switched on debugging traces and -v enabled verbose output.

List mode is selected by the -l option. This makes host perform a zone transfer for zone name. The argument is provided for compatibility with older implemementations. This option is equivalent to making a query of type AXFR.

The -n option specifies that reverse lookups of IPv6 addresses should use the IP6.INT domain and “nibble” labels as defined in RFC1886. The default is to use IP6.ARPA and binary labels as defined in RFC2874.

The -N option sets the number of dots that have to be in name for it to be considered absolute. The default value is that defined using the ndots statement in /etc/resolv.conf, or 1 if no ndots statement is present. Names with fewer dots are interpreted as relative names and will be searched for in the domains listed in the search or domain directive in/etc/resolv.conf.

The number of UDP retries for a lookup can be changed with the -R option. number indicates how many times host will repeat a query that does not get answered. The default number of retries is 1. If number is negative or zero, the number of retries will default to 1.

Non-recursive queries can be made via the -r option. Setting this option clears the RD — recursion desired — bit in the query which host makes. This should mean that the name server receiving the query will not attempt to resolve name. The -r option enables host to mimic the behaviour of a name server by making non-recursive queries and expecting to receive answers to those queries that are usually referrals to other name servers.

By default host uses UDP when making queries. The -T option makes it use a TCP connection when querying the name server. TCP will be automatically selected for queries that require it, such as zone transfer (AXFR) requests.

The -t option is used to select the query type. type can be any recognised query type: CNAME, NS, SOA, SIG, KEY, AXFR, etc. When no query type is specified, host automatically selects an appropriate query type. By default it looks for A records, but if the -C option was given, queries will be made for SOA records, and if name is a dotted-decimal IPv4 address or colon-delimited IPv6 address, host will query for PTR records.

The time to wait for a reply can be controlled through the -W and -w options. The -W option makes host wait for waitseconds. If wait is less than one, the wait interval is set to one second. When the -w option is used, host will effectively wait forever for a reply. The time to wait for a response will be set to the number of seconds given by the hardware’s maximum value for an integer quantity.


To return the mx records of google, you can type:

host -t mx mail is handled by 50 mail is handled by 10 mail is handled by 40 mail is handled by 30 mail is handled by 20

Other types of records can be retrieved just as easily.

You can return all records with the “-a” flag. I will not post the output of this command, because it can be quite long:

host -a

If you need additional information about the host, you can turn on verbose output with the “-v” flag:

host -v


Usage: host [-aCdlriTwv] [-c class] [-N ndots] [-t type] [-W time]
[-R number] [-m flag] hostname [server]
-a is equivalent to -v -t ANY
-c specifies query class for non-IN data
-C compares SOA records on authoritative nameservers
-d is equivalent to -v
-l lists all hosts in a domain, using AXFR
-i IP6.INT reverse lookups
-N changes the number of dots allowed before root lookup is done
-r disables recursive processing
-R specifies number of retries for UDP packets
-s a SERVFAIL response should stop query
-t specifies the query type
-T enables TCP/IP mode
-v enables verbose output
-w specifies to wait forever for a reply
-W specifies how long to wait for a reply
-4 use IPv4 query transport only
-6 use IPv6 query transport only
-m set memory debugging flag (trace|record|usage)