Help:Advanced search

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The Wikipedia page-search feature (aka WikiSearch) has some advanced features to tailor searches to "prefix:" word-prefixes or "intitle:" words within a page name. The advanced-search URL is as follows:

In that URL, the option "profile=advanced" shows the screen for advanced-search options, with a checklist to select which wp:namespace of pages to search.

Overview of features[edit]

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 internal search engine can search for parts of page titles or page title prefixes, and 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).

The internal search is also able to search all pages for project purposes, whereas external search engines cannot be used on any talk page, a large part of projectspace, and any page tagged as noindex.

The source text (as shown in the edit box) is searched for. This distinction is relevant for piped links, for interlanguage links (to find links to Chinese articles, search for zh, not for Zhongwen), special characters (if ê is coded as ê it is found searching for ecirc), etc. Entering an article title will jump to that article; to display a list of matches to the search term instead, prefixing the search term with - or ~ (see "Avoiding automatic direction to page" below) will force a full search.

Upper and lower case as well as some diacritical marks such as umlauts and accents are disregarded in search. For example, a search for citroen will find pages containing the word Citroën (c = C, e = ë). Some ligatures match the separate letters. For example, a search for aeroskobing will find pages containing Ærøskøbing (ae = Æ).

Many non-alphanumerical characters are ignored. It is not possible to search for the string |LT| (letters LT between two pipe symbols) as used in some unit-conversion templates for long tons; all articles with lt will be returned. Some characters are treated differently; Credit (finance) will return articles with the words credit and finance, ignoring the parentheses, unless an article with exact title Credit (finance) exists.

Search engine features[edit]

There are numerous features available, as described below. It might be helpful to run examples in a separate window, while reading features below.


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

  • Phrases in double quotes – A phrase can be matched 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 quoted as a character, differs much from holly dolly where the space is interpreted as a logical AND.
  • Boolean search – the search engine supports the "-" character for "logical not", the AND, the OR, and the grouping parentheses brackets: (_). Logical OR must be spelled in capital letters; the AND operator is assumed for all terms (separated by spaces), but capital 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 likeness -like, or example: payment card -"credit card" finds all articles with 'payment' and 'card', but not "credit card" yet would include 'credit' separately.
  • Wildcard search – The two wildcard characters are * and \?, and both can come in the middle or end of a word. The escaped question mark stands for one character and the star stands for any number of characters. Because many users ask questions when searching, question marks are ignored by default, and the escaped question mark (\?) must be used for a wildcard.
  • Search fuzzily – Spelling relaxation occurs by suffixing a tilde (~) like this~, with results like "thus" and "thins". For example, searching for james~ watt~ would return James Watt, James Wyatt, and James Watts. A mnemonic: <search>~ish.
  • 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 [sic] finds pages with the misspelling, instead of being redirected by title "Similiar" to page "Similarity". Making tilde the first character disables a redirect. There will be no disambiguation page, no article, no single page as a result. A mnemonic: "wave(~) of <search 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: – "Intitle:query" prioritizes the search 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 pagename can be replaced with an underscore instead of using double quotes; either way works, and even both at once works. "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". To search only Wikipedia and Help, or any two or more namespaces, see Refining results above.
  • prefix: – Given only at the last part of a search box query, "prefix:page name" refers to matching only the beginning characters of a page name. It treats each character entirely literally. The next character after the colon cannot be a space. Any space character in the query must be left bare, and that is why it is the last string in the query. The namespace portion of the page name must use the page name; so it will not recognize an alias of a namespace, or a redirect (or shortcut). Prefix is a powerful filter alone, or used with other filters. The singular alternative is at Special:PrefixIndex.
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 affecting 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

Searching within a page[edit]

The internal search engine cannot locate occurrences of a string within the page you are viewing but browsers can usually do this with Ctrl+F, or ⌘ Command+F on a Mac.

See also[edit]