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This page is about searching Wikipedia. For navigating, see Help:Navigation#Using the search box to navigate.

Wikipedia has its own search engine, with a search box on every page, and a special search results page. The search box has an activator magnifying-glass icon in it. A list of matching page names drops down as you type the query. The search box will navigate directly to those, but to get search results instead: choose Search, or choose "containing..." from the drop down list, or prefix the query with the tilde character (~).

An extra search box with graphical interface to advanced options is featured on the Search results page. It is especially for refining the list to an workable number of results. It has a frame for choosing areas of Wikipedia, or click on "Advanced" for even more precise areas, called namespaces. You must choose a page or go to the navigation-capable search box. If the query matches a page title, "There is a page named [page name] on Wikipedia" will be displayed.

Page-name completion is invoked by typing into the search box if you have JavaScript enabled. Click the mouse on them, or or use the down key or tab to access them and enter activate the navigation. Activating a search without typing anything into the search box goes directly to the search results page (as does Special:Search). For more information on the search box command line interface, see Search engine features, below. For searching for other than a page name, such as searching a page history, or for other content, see Special searches below. Special:Preferences offers many search options, and Wikipedia:Tools#Searching offers the setups of other users.

Vector skin has magnifying glass icon to combine the search and go buttons
Vector skin, simplified search box. Note that an empty Search displays "Search".
Monobook skin has Go and Search buttons
Monobook skin, search box format.

As is normal for most search engines, grouping with parentheses and the keyword OR is understood, characters that are not numbers or letters are otherwise ignored, and stemming is performed. Advanced search features of the Wikipedia search engine include wikitext searches, searches for templates, regular expression searches, wildcard searches, fuzzy spelling using ~, and inclusion/exclusion filters. (See Syntax below.)

Search results page

You can get to the search results page by entering what is not a page name (or a redirect), or by doing an empty search (clicking the magnifying glass, or pressing Go). The ordering of the list of search results is by relevance or user settings.

  • Important terms are highlighted in bold lettering
  • It will advise There is a page named pagename on Wikipedia when there was a direct match to a pagename, a disambiguation page, or a redirect (and thus, even to a section of a page).
  • A message box may show up beside a listing, indicating that that page is linked to a sister page on another project, such as a Wiktionary entry tied to that Wikipedia page, but this only happens for listed articles.

The use of the usual search box while on the search results page defeats the purpose of the page. There are two search boxes because the usual search box is on every page, but the intent of the search results page is to use the newly placed search box to refine a list of results. There are several ways to accomplish this, either with the mouse or by query commands typed into the search box. For example, if you want to see more terms highlighted use "OR", and if you want to remove results use "-". (See Syntax below.)

Refining results

Wikipedia special search box
The refinement of search results offers a mouse-driven interface.
Some Wikipedia advanced search options
The Advanced filters of the search page.

Articles are in the main namespace, or "article space", but Special:Statistics will show that there are many times more pages on Wikipedia than there are articles on Wikipedia. Other types of pages are in other namespaces, and these can be searched by clicking on one of the filter-activation "links" in the grey frame just below the search box:

  • If Multimedia is selected, the File namespace reveals page names with matching images, videos and audios. Your query matches titles (denoted "File:pagename"), data filenames, and their descriptions.
  • If Help and Project pages is selected, resulting titles will start with "Help:" and "Wikipedia:", indicating the namespaces, which contain basic help, and also Wikipedia guideline, policy, maintenance and administration pages.
  • If Everything is selected, the entire database is searched, and there are about twenty-six namespaces, but only four others besides articles are commonly searched: Wikipedia, Help, Template, and Category.
  • If Advanced is selected, the gray frame expands to reveal all the namespaces, each with a check-box indicating the search status. An additional check-box arranges for the current choices to be remembered as the default for future searches.

Talk pages are in their own, respective namespaces, and are not included in these selections.

See Search engine features below for using search box commands to refine results.

Other uses

To get Wikipedia search results while on any web page, you can temporarily set your browser's (web-based) search box to interface the Wikipedia search engine and land on Wikipedia's search results page; see Help:Searching from a web browser. This trick removes the need to first navigate to Wikipedia from a web page, and then do the search or navigation. It is a temporary change, and then you put it back to your preferred web-search engine.

Say while on some web page, you decide to research, at Wikipedia, material on that web page. You change your web-search box to "Wikipedia (en)", and enter the page name or the query while on that web page. The other example is that you decide to contribute information from the web to Wikipedia. Furthermore, you can reach all twelve sister projects the same way. For example, you can go straight to a Wiktionary entry by using the prefix wikt: from your web-search box.

User preferences

The default namespace to search is article space. To set this preference choose "Remember selection for future searches" from the Advanced tab of a search results page.

The search results page can open in a new tab. If your browser does not already have the manual ability to open any linked page in a new tab when you press and hold the Ctrl-key (PC) or ⌘-key (Mac), this functionality can be enabled at Preferences → Gadgets in the Browsing section. There are also custom user-scripts to make all search results always open in a new tab. (See the scripts available in See also.)

If you create an account you can visit your Special:Preferences page (requires JavaScript) to set up:

  • to search Wikipedia with your own search engine to see its search results (Preferences → Gadgets under Appearance)
  • to widen the search box (Preferences → Gadgets under Appearance)
  • to disable the quasi-search results that drop down from the search box while you type (Preferences → Gadgets under Appearance)
  • to enable wildcard prefix searches, e.g., "Splark*" (Preferences → Gadgets under Advanced)


If your query matches in the title of a redirect pagename, that redirect will show in the parenthetical beside the listed page name: "(Redirected from Redirect pagename)". Multiple redirects to the same page are de-cluttered from both the drop-down list and the search results list, so that only one such redirect match will show. (For lists of redirects, see Category:Wikipedia redirects. For redirects to a page, see Special:WhatLinksHere.)

There is no search parameter that will include redirects or not. To learn all the commands the search box understands to refine search results, such as "namespace: intitle: word1 OR word2", see the next section. You won't need the mouse.

Search engine features

Further information: mw:Help:CirrusSearch

The search engine can search for parts of page titles, but not parts of namespaces. It can search in specific categories and namespaces. It can also limit a search to pages with specific words in the title or located in specific categories or namespaces. It can handle parameters an order of magnitude more sophisticated than most external search engines, including user-specified words with variable endings and similar spellings. When presenting results, the internal search understands and will link to relevant sections of a page (although to a limited degree some other search engines may do this as well).

  • Searches all pages. There are about five million articles but about 25 million pages in other namespaces.
  • Letters and numbers are valid, but non-alphanumeric characters are ignored.
  • Titles are case sensitive except for the initial character of a page name.


The following features can be used to refine searches. Many of these links are a {{search link}}. (Search link is not guaranteed to exactly emulate the search box.)

  • Phrases in double quotes – A phrase can be found by enclosing it in double quotes, "like this". Double quotes can define a single search term that contains spaces. For example, "holly dolly" where the space is a character, differs much from holly dolly where the space is interpreted as a logical AND.
  • Boolean search – All major search engines support the "-" character for "logical not", the AND, the OR, and the grouping parenthesis. Logical OR can be specified by spelling it out (in capital letters); the AND operator is assumed for all terms (separated by spaces), but spelling out AND is equivalent. Parentheses are a necessary feature because   (blue OR red) AND green   differs from   blue OR (red AND green).
  • Exclusion – Terms can be excluded by prefixing a hyphen or dash (-), which is "logical not". For example while -refining -unwanted search results. For example credit card -"credit card" finds all articles with credit and card except those with the phrase "credit card".
  • Wildcard search – A wildcard character *, standing for any length of character-string can suffix a word or string: this* returns results like "thistle". For example, the query pseudo* lists articles like Pseudohistory and Pseudoarchaeology.
  • Search fuzzilySpelling relaxation is requested by suffixing a tilde (~) like this~, with results like "thus" and "thins". This search technique is sometimes called a "sounds-like" search. For example, searching for charlie~ parker~ returns Charlie Parker, Charles Palmer, Charley Parks, etc.; the incorrect intropi~ finds entropy. A mnemonic: "ish" the adjective suffix.
  • Search results! – Prefixing a tilde ~like this query always gives search results, never jumping to a single title. It functions as the keyboard shortcut to clicking on the "containing" option. For example, ~similiar finds pages with the misspelling, instead of being redirected to Similarity. Making tilde the first character disables a redirect. There will be no disambiguation page, no article, no single page as a result. Mnemonic: sentence prefixes "¡" or "¿", or the command "generate a wave of results".


The three main search parameters are prefix, intitle, and incategory. These are named filters, followed by a colon, as in "filter:query string". The query string may be a term, or a phrase, or part or all of a page name, as ascribed below. The filters accept Boolean operators between them. A single "namespace:" filter can go first, and a single "prefix" filter can go last, as explained below.

  • intitle: – Searching for "intitle:query" prioritizes the results by title, but it also shows the usual matches in title's contents. Multiple "intitle" filters may be used with Boolean operators between, such as "intitle: speed OR intitle: velocity", but "intitle: speed OR velocity" also works.
Query Description
intitle:airport All articles with airport in their title
parking intitle: airport Articles with "parking" in their text and "airport" in their title
intitle: international airport Articles containing "international" AND "airport" in their title (including Airports Council International)
intitle: "international airport" Articles with the phrase "international airport" in their title
  • incategory: – Given as "incategory:category", where category is the pagename of a category page, it lists pages with [[Category:pagename]] in their wikitext. (Editors searching in namespaces other than mainspace will need to know the limitations these search results may contain.) Space characters in a page name can be replaced with an underscore instead of using double quotes; either way works, and even both at once works (but not on commons). "Incategory:" will also return pages in the adjacent subcategory; see for example, "category: incategory: History". Multiple "incategory" filters may be applied. A more graphical alternative to a single filter is at Special:CategoryTree. Because categories are important structures for searching for related articles, any use of this prefix is particularly effective for searching. For more on using the categories themselves to find articles, see Wikipedia:FAQ/Categories.
Query Description
ammonia incategory: German_chemists Starting with the articles listed at Category: German chemists, only the ones that have the word "ammonia" in their text
incategory: "Suspension bridges in the United States" incategory: Bridges_in_New_York_City Articles that are common to both categories—the suspension bridges in New York City

  • namespace name: or All: – Given only at the beginning of the query, a namespace name followed by a colon limits search results to that namespace. It is a filter without a query string. "All:" searches all namespaces. Namespace aliases are accepted. A reader searching for articles from the search box need know nothing about namespaces, so the default user preferences are set to search only in article space; but an advancing editor can reset the default search-space preference to a particular namespace, or "all". When preferences are "all", namespace ":" means mainspace titles sort to the top. To search only Wikipedia and Help, or any two or more namespaces, see Refining results above.
  • prefix: – "prefix:page name" patterns only the beginning characters of a pagename. Because the "beginning" characters can, if you need, go on to include the characters all the way to the end of the page name, prefix must include spaces, since page names often include spaces. For this reason prefix: must only ever be given at the last part of a search box query, and next character after the colon cannot be a space. Prefix does not search for partial namespace names, but requires at least a full namespace name to start to find pages, but prefix: also recognizes an alias of a namespace, and it recognizes redirects (or shortcut). Prefix is the most widely used and powerful filter as it can mimic the namespace filter, and because intitle: cannot easily target a single page, even together with other filters. Special:PrefixIndex is a MediaWiki, graphical, version, using only prefix: to find pages.
Query Description
Salvage wreck prefix:USS Articles containing the words salvage and wreck whose title starts with the characters "USS"
wave particle prefix:Talk:Speed of light Speed of light talk pages with the terms "particle" and "wave", including the current and the archived talk pages
wave particle prefix:Talk:Speed of light/ Same search, but only in the archived subpages
"portal namespace" readers prefix:Wikipedia talk: Is equivalent to 'Wikipedia talk: "portal namespace" readers'
Talk: "heat reservoir" OR "ocean current" Any discussion page in the entire encyclopedia with either of those phrases, including archived discussions
language prefix:Portal:Chi Portal namespace page names that begin with "Portal:Chi" and have the word language in the page

Note that the space characters are not very important except around "prefix". The query string of "incategory" is a page name (or "a category name"), and in a page name, the underscore is equivalent to space, and so underscore will suffice instead of the double quotes around the pagename with spaces in it. The "intitle" query is not a page name, but it also treats space and underscore equally, treating them as AND. (It even treats multiple spaces, and even mixes of spaces and underscores that way.) All filters can have between them multiple spaces (or underscores) (or a mix) without effecting search results. Multiple spaces are treated as a single space everywhere except around "prefix". (Namely, within and around Boolean operated terms, even if inside double quotes; in between adjacent filters; in page names; in starting characters of the search box query; in between the colon and the prefix parameter names "incategory", "intitle", or "all", or after that colon). "Prefix:" or a namespace name (or its alias) can have no space between its name and the following colon. And remember, "prefix:" is entirely literal after its colon, and so treats no space character, except as a space.


All search words are automatically subject to stemming. There is a stemming: parameter but it changes no search result. Stemming may be deactivated by using double quotes. Stemming is a convention among search engines. See the following examples:

Query Description
intitle:bär All articles with "bär" or "baer" or "bar" or "bars" in their title.
intitle:"bär" Articles containing "bär" in their title
intitle:bar All articles with "bar" or "bär" or "bár" or "bars" in their title.
intitle:"bar" same result as without double quotes

Other search tools

Browsers can usually find strings on the page you are viewing with Ctrl+F or F3, or Command+F on a Mac.

Other tools include:

  • External link URL search - Special:LinkSearch is a tool for searching for URLs in external links in Wikipedia pages. For example, the page [[Special:LinkSearch/*]] lists all Wikipedia pages linking to
  • External search engines – see Wikipedia:External search engines and Wikipedia:Tools#Searching
  • Other languages – for searching other language editions of Wikipedia see and the links above.
  • Article title search - searches page titles using regular expressions. Notably, they can search exact names and literal strings, including punctuation marks and lower / upper cases. For example, to find titles containing "(Company", type "\(Company".
  • CatScan — powerful search using categories, included templates, etc.
  • WikiBlame — search for text in the revision history of a page
  • User contribution search – finds all the edits by a user to a single page

If you cannot find what you are looking for

If you're looking for a place where wine comes from pronounced "Bordo", you can try searching for a more general article such as "Wine", "Wine regions" (returning "List of wine-producing regions") or other wine types such as "Burgundy" and see if it's mentioned there or follow links (in this case, to "Burgundy wine", which has several mentions of "Bordeaux", and links to "French wine" and "Bordeaux wine"). If you know it's in France, look at "France" or the Category:Cities in France, from where you can easily find Bordeaux. You can try various things depending upon the particular case; for "Bordo" wine, it's quite likely that the first letters are "bord", so search an article you've landed on for these letters. If you use Google to search Wikipedia, and click on "cache" at the bottom of any result in the search engine results page, you'll see the word(s) that you searched for highlighted in context.

For an overview of how to find and navigate Wikipedia content, see Portal:Contents. If you're looking for a straight definition of a word, try our sister project Wiktionary.

If there is no appropriate page on Wikipedia, consider creating a page, since you can edit Wikipedia right now. Or consider adding what you were looking for to the Requested articles page.

If you have a question, then see Where to ask questions, which is a list of departments where our volunteers answer questions, any question you can possibly imagine.

A common mistake is to type a question into the search bar and expect an answer; some Web search tools such as Ask Jeeves support this. The Wikipedia search is a text search only; questions, as such, can be asked at the reference desk and similar places. A search for how do clocks work? will return articles with the words how, do, clocks, and work, ignoring the question mark (in practice this can lead to articles answering simple questions).

Delay in updating the search index

Because people like to see their work in search results, the search engine attempts to update in near real-time. Edits made to pages via templates can take a little longer to propagate. If you see the index lagging more than a day or so, report it. For other technical issues with the search engine, please leave a message on the talk page.

See also