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This page explains some general hints on searching, for the advanced syntax details see Help:CirrusSearch on Mediawiki project.

Searching is a powerful tool that lets you find specific pages. There is a search bar usually located at the top-right of every screen. This article will tell you how to get more out of your searches.

Search facilities in MediaWiki

The description below applies when lucene search has been installed, like on all the Wikimedia sites.

See also "Search result settings" section in the preferences.


Avoid short and common words

This is the most likely cause of an unexpected failed search. If your search terms include a common "stop word" (such as "the", "one", "your", "more", "right", "while", "when", "who", "which", "such", "every", "about", "onto"), then your search will fail without any results. Short numbers, and words that appear in half of all pages, will also not be found. In this case, drop those words and rerun the search.

See Help:Common words, searching for which is not possible for the stop words filtered out by the database. From there one can at least go to a page with a stop word as title. Searching for the combination of one or more words and the common word "not" give a database query syntax error due to a bug in the software.

See Help:Short words in searches for a procedure to allow MySQL to index words shorter than four letters.

Search is case-insensitive

The searches for "fortran", "Fortran" and "FORTRAN" all return the same results.

Words with special characters

In a search for a word with a diaeresis, such as Sint Odiliënberg, it depends whether this ë is stored as one character or as "ë". In the first case one can simply search for Odilienberg (or Odiliënberg); in the second case it can only be found by searching for Odili, euml and/or nberg. This is actually a bug that should be fixed -- the entities should be folded into their raw character equivalents so all searches on them are equivalent. See also Help:Special characters.


Search for a phrase by enclosing it in double quotation marks.


You can use a wildcard *, at the end of a search term only. To search for pages with the words "boat" or "boats" search like this: "boat*". You cannot use "*boat" to find Riverboat, etc.

Searching limitations and Gotchas

No regular expressions

You cannot use regular expressions.

Words in single quotes

If a word appears in a page with single quotes, you can only find it if you search for the word with quotes. Since this is rarely desirable it is better to use double quotes in pages, for which this problem does not arise.

An apostrophe is identical to a single quote, therefore Mu'ammar can be found searching for exactly that (and not otherwise). A word with apostrophe s is an exception in that it can be found also searching for the word without the apostrophe and the s.

Delay in updating the search index

For reasons of efficiency and priority, very recent changes to pages are not always immediately taken into account in searches.

Search options

Namespaces searched

The search only applies to the namespaces selected in the preferences. To search the other namespaces check or uncheck the tickboxes in "Search in namespaces" box found at the bottom of a search results page. Depending on the browser, a box may still be checked from a previous search, but may no longer be effective. To be sure the box is in effect, uncheck and recheck it.

Searching the image namespace means searching the image descriptions, i.e. the first parts of the image pages. For searching the titles, use Special:Imagelist.

Searching in single namespaces can also be achieved by typing the namespace, a colon, then the search term in the search box. For example, typing "Talk:Foo" will give all pages containing "foo" in the talk namespace.

The URL for searching a particular namespace is


where "qqq" is used as example for the search term, and the namespaces to be searched are specified.

Thus, e.g.


searches the Template and Template talk namespaces for "test", and


searches the image description pages for "jpg".

To search the Help pages use // and replace the x in the URL by the search term. Replacing it in the search box does not work the same: the search is then in the namespaces specified in the preferences, instead of just in the help namespace.

For each namespace: all 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

(Also there is a special search feature Special:Imagelist, which searches in titles, regardless of whether there is an image description.)

Languages searched

See the feature request at phab:1837.

Redirects can not be excluded

Redirects can no longer be excluded from search results.

Search in the wikitext

Use the insource: parameter to search the wikitext (source text, what one sees in the edit box). This distinction is relevant for piped links, for interlanguage links, special characters and page code in general.

See the related help page for details.


Some portions of matching pages that contain the searched-for terms are shown, with the terms highlighted in red. You can set the number of lines extracted and the amount of text per line shown in your preferences.

If you search e.g. for "book" you get only pages with that word, not pages with "books" only. However, on pages with "book" and "books", also the part "book" of the word "books" is highlighted.

Other possibilities

list of all pages

Please note that a-z come after A-Z.

For some other namespaces, see Help:Namespace.

Go button

See also Help:Go button.

Search field

Pressing the [Enter] key while the search field is active is equivalent to clicking on the [Go] button. While this is obvious when using Internet Explorer (tested on version 6), Mozilla (version 1.6 at least) provides no such indication.

Search engines



searches for the phrase interwiki link in — that is, in all Wikipedias (English, German, French etc.), but not

%3A is a colon (:), %22 a double quotation mark ("), and + is equivalent to a space ( ); %20 may also be used for a space. (See also Help:URL.)

Note that the underscore (_) is not equivalent to a space: putting it in the URL results in a search for a word containing actual underscores at those positions. Thus

finds pages containing the term interwiki_link.

In an interwiki link with prefix "google:", a double quotation mark (") is again written %22, but now a space needs to be written " ".


Searching for the phrase "michael jackson":
[[google:%22michael jackson%22]] giving google:"michael jackson"

Searching for first term only: jackson%22

Searching for two terms, not the phrase:

Searching for phrase with underscore:

Thumbnails in Google cache

Browse Wikipedia images with thumbnails in Google cache: png jpg gif

Each thumbnail links to an image result page, which links both to the Wikipedia image page and to the image itself on Wikimedia.


Administration Options

from includes/DefaultSettings.php, apparently you have to look up your namespace table, because they are numbered...

$wgNamespacesToBeSearchedDefault = array( -1 => 0, 0 => 1, 1 => 0,
  2 => 0, 3 => 0, 4 => 0, 5 => 0, 6 => 0, 7 => 0, 8 => 0, 9 => 1, 10 => 0, 11 => 1 );

I would guess that -1 is the default settings.. and 0 is main namespace.. and 0 is off and 1 is on.

See also

  • mw:Manual:Searchindex table
  • Globalwpsearch searches the titles of all major Wikipedias in a single search request (case sensitive). For the resulting pages the following is shown:
    • name and code of language
    • size
    • date of last edit
    • last editor
    • missing interlanguage links

Links to other help pages

Help contents
Meta · Wikinews · Wikipedia · Wikiquote · Wiktionary · Commons: · Wikidata · MediaWiki · Wikibooks · Wikisource · MediaWiki: Manual · Google
Versions of this help page (for other languages see further)
What links here on Meta or from Meta · Wikipedia · MediaWiki
Go · Search · Namespace · Page name · Section · Backlinks · Redirect · Category · Image page · Special pages · Printable version
Tracking changes
Recent changes (enhanced) | Related changes · Watching pages · Diff · Page history · Edit summary · User contributions · Minor edit · Patrolled edit
Logging in and preferences
Logging in · Preferences · User style
Starting a new page · Advanced editing · Editing FAQ · Export · Import · Shortcuts · Edit conflict · Page size
Links · URL · Piped links · Interwiki linking · Footnotes
Style and formatting
Wikitext examples · CSS · Reference card · HTML in wikitext · Formula · Lists · Table · Sorting · Colors · Images and file uploads
Fixing mistakes
Show preview · Reverting edits
Advanced functioning
Expansion · Template · Advanced templates · Parser function · Parameter default · Magic words · System message · Substitution · Array · Calculation · Transclusion
Special characters · Renaming (moving) a page · Preparing a page for translation · Talk page · Signatures · Sandbox · Legal issues for editors