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This page is about searching Wikipedia. For navigating, see Help:Navigation § Using the search box to navigate.
Further information: Help:Advanced search
For more details on advanced Search and regular expression techniques, see Help:Searching/Draft.

Wikipedia has its own search engine, with its search box on every page. The search box will go to a given page name, but there are three ways to go to the search results page instead.

  1. If you activate the magnifying-glass icon (or the Search button) from an empty search box, you'll go to an empty search results page.
  2. If you start any query with the tilde character, it always generates search results, ~page name. (This is explained below.)
  3. Choose "containing..." from the page names that drop-down as you type (if you have JavaScript enabled). To access the suggestions that drop down as you type, click the mouse on them, or use , or Tab ↹, to access them.

Two central features of the search results page are a search box with larger font for editing the query that landed you there, and below that a collapsible frame for activating a search domain. The "Advanced" search domain is a selection of every type of page on Wikipedia, in areas called namespaces. If you try to navigate from the featured search box, you'll only get a preliminary report saying:

There is a page named "Page name", with a link to the page.

To navigate to a page instead of search, remember to type the page name into the usual search box there (on any page).

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 web search engines:

  • Characters that are not numbers or letters (punctuation marks, brackets and slashes, math and other symbols) are ignored.
  • Stemming is performed to aggressively boost the number of search results.
  • Spelling corrections and query corrections are offered.
  • A hyphen means not, and turns a "yes include" query term into a "no" term, for example  while -refining -unwanted search results.
  • When you land on Search, the query that produced it will show in its own featured search box, in large font, for editing. See below for how to turn your browser web-search box into a Wikipedia-search box.

Advanced features of the Wikipedia search engine include multi-word proximity-searches, wildcard searches, "fuzzy~" searches, searching with regular expressions, search domains and namespaces. Wikipedia's search engine also has several, wiki-oriented, operators and parameters, for weighting and filtering. (See Syntax below.)

For more information on the search box, 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 several search options, and Wikipedia:Tools#Searching offers the setups of other users.

Search results page

You land on the page Search by way of:

The first two have empty queries, and the last two do not. You can also land on the Search page of Wikipedia by using your web browser search box from any web page. See below for how.

In the search results:

  • The ordering of the list of search results is determined by the page ranking software, but you can make adjustments to it. See #Search engine features below.
  • Matching terms are highlighted in bold. All matches in the title will show, and all other matches can show in the snippet, but all matches will not show when they are far apart on the page. Search terms are not thrown out, but some page item may contain only a stem.
  • Sometimes the match is made in a section heading. These will show off to the side of the page name, parenthetically.

Search results will often be accompanied by a preliminary report.

  • There is a page named "Page name" (a wikilink to an existing page),
  • Did you mean: spelling corrections (either a wikilink or a search-link).
  • You may create the page "New title"— (a redlink to a new page name).

The Did you mean report corrects dictionary word spellings and gives a link that is either a wikilink that will navigation to an article or a search link that will perform a query. The distinction can be made by observing the presence of a You may create the page report. Another report corrects "spellings" to coincide with any "word" found in a search index (any word on the wiki).

Showing results for query correction. Search instead for your query (two search links).

Refining results

Wikipedia special search box
Special search box just for Search, with the general search domains listed below. Click on one to search that domain.
Some Wikipedia simplified search options
Clicking on Advanced shows the namespaces of the wiki. Check namespaces to set either your current or your default search domain.

The Search page is designed for presenting and refining results in a re-search loop controlled by modifying the query or clicking on a search domain.

  • Add a filter such as -word  or sort by date with  prefer-recent.
  • Note the number of search results to the right.
  • Note your search terms in bold in the snippet, and use that context to modify your search.

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 one of the search domains in the grey frame just below the search box. Its blue font turns black to show that it represents the search results.

  • If Multimedia is clicked matching images, videos and audios are then listed. These are in the File namespace on the wiki, and on the Wikimedia Commons web site, which is also searched.
  • If Everything is clicked, matches to every page on the entire wiki are then listed. Everything includes all the namespaces on the wiki, (including Help and Wikipedia). These are listed in Advanced.
  • If Advanced is clicked, a profile of previously set namespaces is then searched, and a gray frame expands to reveal the profile. All the namespaces of the wiki are listed there, and the search domain is indicated by check marks. Click All to match the Everything search domain to the left; clicking none requires selecting namespaces to have an effect. To set your default search domain, at the bottom click "remember", and then click "Search" to set it. To collapse the frame again, you must perform another search, either by clicking on one of the other search domain offerings, or by removing the &profile=advanced parameter in your browser's URL in the address bar, and entering that search.

In order to fully interpret the search results page, check which search domain is in black font, but also remember to check for a namespace name at the beginning or a prefix: parameter at the end of the search box query:

  • When the search domain consisted of two or more namespaces[1], an expanded "Advanced" frame below the search box, a profile, will indicate that, because only one namespace can fit in the shown query.
  • A namespace entered in a query always takes priority for determination of the search domain of a query, and will at any time override your default search domain, or any displayed profile.
  • A prefix: parameter at the end of a query in the search box, furthermore, will override any namespace there, or any profile underneath that.

Equivalently, you could check the URL in your browser's address bar for profile and namespace parameter settings, because the search query was sent to the search engine by way of that URL.

Beyond setting the search domain to refine your search results, see Search engine features below for using the search box to achieve a high level of refinement by filtering and ranking results.

From any web page

To get Wikipedia search results while on any web page, you can temporarily set your web browser's search box to become a Wikipedia search search box, even though you're on another web site; 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.

For example, you flip your web-browser search engine to "Wikipedia (en)" while:

  • you are writing a blog page on some web site, and you need to look up several items on Wikipedia during the session.
  • you enjoy contributing to Wikipedia at the same time you are learning new information from interesting pages on the web, or while reading your favorite topics at your favorite web sites.
  • you research all your technical answers on a social networking site before responding.
  • you're trying to keep up with a new crowd on Facebook or Twitter, and you have to look up much of what they are talking about.

You can just drag items on the page the name up to the web browser search box while on any web site, even in the lower sections of a Wikipedia page, where no search box is immediately available.

You can reach all twelve sister projects the same way by using interwiki prefixesin the web browser's search box. For example, you can go straight to a Wiktionary entry by using the prefix wikt: from your web-search box.

User preferences

The default search domain is article space, but any user can change this default, and have their own default search domain for all the queries they run. In any case a query always can specify a namespace to make the search domain explicit and override any default. At the search results page, Special:Search, Advanced dialog, a search can specify any number of namespaces, and a logged-in users can set their default search domain there by clicking "Remember selection for future searches".

Because the default search domain is a settable preference, any query you intend to share, publish, or save in a search link might need the search domain explicitly given in the search link in order to ensure consistent search results among all users, at any time. {{Search link}} defaults to article space but can specify multiple namespaces in its query.

Visit your Preferences → Gadgets page (requires JavaScript) to set up:

  • several external search engines' views of Wikipedia. The search results page will then have a pull down list to the left of its search box, offering your choice as, say, a modification of a word or phrase search, or a page ranking refinement. Go to Preferences → Gadgets Appearance, and see "Add a selector to the Wikipedia search page allowing the use of external search engines."
  • a wider search box. Go to Appearance and find "Widen the search box in the Vector skin."
  • the suggestions that drop-down from the search box as you type. Go to Appearance and see "Disable the suggestions dropdown-lists of the search fields".

The search results page can open in a new tab. See Preferences → Gadgets Browsing 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 your query matches in the title of a redirect pagename, that redirect will show in the parenthetical beside the listed page name: "(redirect 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.)

Because a redirect is a page name, but it can also point to a section, a section can show up in the ranking of search result items, which are usually pages.

There is presently no search operator or parameter that will include redirects or not. To learn some commands the search box understands to refine search results, see the next section. You won't need the mouse.

Search engine features

Further information: mw:Help:CirrusSearch

Searches start in a search domain; its pages are the initial search results before the query logic and filters are applied. The default search domain is the article space, but any namespace may be specified in a query. And at the search results page any number of namespaces can be specified, and users can keep those namespaces as their own default search domain. Partial namespace searches can be made by specifying the initial letters of a pagename. Search can instantly search all 39,825,467 pages on the wiki when the search is simple word or two.

Search can filter results by words in a page titles, template names used, category membership, namespaces, or pages linking to a specific page. Search can handle regular expressions, a sophisticated, exact-string, and string-pattern, search tool that is not offered by most public search engines.

Search has many features you need to know about in order to use it correctly:

  • Folds character families. Diacritical folding automatically matches foreign terms: Citroen will match Citroën, and Aeroskobing matches Ærøskøbing.
  • Ignores punctuation, brackets, math and other symbols, only recognizing words containing letters and numbers.
  • Is case insensitive.
  • Performs stemming on common words. (This can be turned off.)
  • Searches all visible content after templates are rendered on that page.

Search has some nice features you might like:

  • Performs proximity searches, telling how close the words in a phrase might be.
  • Can perform a fuzzy search (typo-correction, spelling questionable) or accept wildcards for a letter or letters of a word.
  • Can filter based on template usage.
  • Affect page ranking rules.

The maximum query length is 300 characters.[2]


The following features are available. They are activated by the syntax (characters) and operators (grammar) that form non-trivial items in multi-term queries.

  • "Exact phrase" search. In double quotes, multiple words can define a single search term that contains spaces. "Holly dolly" is one search term whereas holly dolly is two terms, and the space is interpreted as a logical AND.
  • Logic search. Logical operators on the search terms include AND between terms, OR between terms. When two phrases are side-by-side, you must specify AND between them, but with two words AND is optional because it is the default. An AND is exclusive because it too filters pages, while an OR is inclusive because it adds pages. Next is logical not, for example while refining -unwanted search -results.
  • Exclusion. Pages matching a search term can be excluded by prefixing a hyphen or dash (-) to it. This is the logical not. For example credit card -"credit card" finds all articles with credit and card except those with the phrase "credit card".
  • Wildcard search. The two wildcard characters are * and ?, and both can prefix, infix, or suffix a word. The question mark stands for one character and the star stands for any number of characters.
  • Search fuzzily. Spelling relaxation is requested by suffixing a tilde (~) like this~, with results like "thus" and "thins". It covers any two character-changes for any character except the first: it returns addition, exchange, or subtraction. This search technique is sometimes called a "sounds-like" search. For example, searching for charlie~ parker~ returns Charlie Parker, Charles Palmer, Charley Parks.
  • Search results! – Including a tilde character ~ anywhere in the query will search, not navigate: it always takes you to the search results page, never jumping to a single title. Make it the first character to avoid the side-effects of its other meanings. For example, the misspelling similiar is redirected to Similarity, but prefixing a tilde, ~similiar, lists pages containing that misspelling.


For more details on on CirrusSearch parameters, see Help:Searching/Draft.

The main search operators are insource, prefix, intitle, incategory. These function as named filters, followed by a colon and their own search term. Their search term may be, as usual, a word, a phrase, and prefix takes a page name or the beginning letters of a pagename, as described below. These make up items in a query, and so they accept logical 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 intitle: 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:, All: 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. Namespace aliases, like "WP" for "Wikipedia", are accepted. The case-sensitive namespace wildcard "All:" searches all namespaces and prioritizes mainspace matches to the top. Using the lower-case "all:" version also searches all namespaces but does not prioritize the results by namespace. 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
  • linksto: – "linksto:page name" search in pages which link to the given page. Can be used negatively, i.e., pages which do not link to the given page. Unlike with some other keywords, the page name is case-sensitive.
Query Description
linksto:Airport All articles containing internal link to Airport. Note that linksto:airport (with small "a") returns an empty set.
parking linksto:Airport Articles with "parking" in their text linking to Airport
-linksto:"Albert Einstein" "Albert Einstein" Articles containing "Albert Einstein" NOT linking to Albert Einstein
  • insource: – This can find template arguments, URLs, links, html, etc. It has two forms, one is an indexed search, and the other is regex based.
Query Description
insource:"word1 word2"
Like word searches and exact-phrase searches, non-alphanumeric characters are ignored, and proximity and fuzziness are options.
These are regular expressions. They aren't efficient, so we can only allow a few at a time on the search cluster, but they are very powerful. The version with the extra i runs the expression case-insensitive, and is even less efficient.

Note that the space characters are not very important, and that any character other than a letter of the alphabet or a number is treated as a space character. (The exception here the quotation marks used to make an exact phrase search). Basically all these characters !@#$%^%^&*()_+-=~`{}[]|\:;'<>,.?/ are ignored except to treat them as equivalent to a single space, so we may occasionally use the term grey-space instead of whitespace for the purposes of this page.

The prefix and insource operators must "touch" their arguments, but others, such as intitle and incategory can have spaces between their colon character and there search term.

Any non-alphanumeric character except double quotes are equivalent to a space character. Multiple spaces, and even mixes of spaces and non-alphanumeric characters are equivalent to a single space, and to AND. All filters can have between them such grey-space without affecting search results. The exceptions is for the "prefix" operator (and some syntactic versions of the "insource" operator), which must "touch" their arguments. Grey-space is accepted within and around logical terms, inside exact phrase searches, in between adjacent items in the query, and in starting characters of the search box query.


All search words are automatically subject to stemming (following built-in patterns). If stemmed words are not wanted use double quotes around the word you do not want stemmed. Stems are a convention among search engines to garner more search results. See the following search link results for this page:

Query Description
stem Matches "stem", "stemming" or "stems", etc.
cloud Matches "cloud", "clouds", "clouding", or "clouded", etc., but not "cloudy".
"stemming" Matches "stemming" but not "stemmed" or "stems", etc.
"clouds" Matches "clouds" and "cloudsource", but not "clouding", or "cloud", etc.

Other search tools

Other search tools include

  • your own browser. Try Ctrl+F, F3, or ⌘ Command+F to find a single string of characters on the page.
  • the Main page. It searches other-language Wikipedias.
  • search-related templates. See the navigation box below.

Internal search tools:

External tools dedicated to Wikipedia Database searches include:

  • 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 — Version 3, about twenty search parameters, three for categories
  • WikiBlame — search for text in the revision history of a page
  • page contribution – reports anyone's contributions to a page
  • whichsub finds transcluded templates of a given page which contain a given string.

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.


  1. ^ A search link can set a search domain to two or more namespaces, or all namespaces.
  2. ^ See Phabricator task T107947 for an explanation.

See also