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Excel SEARCH Function

Excel SEARCH function

The Excel SEARCH function returns the location of one text string inside another. SEARCH returns the position of the first character of find_text inside within_text. Unlike FIND, SEARCH allows wildcards, and is not case-sensitive.

Get the location of text in a string
Return value 
A number representing the location of find_text.
=SEARCH (find_text, within_text, [start_num])
  • find_text - The text to find.
  • within_text - The text to search within.
  • start_num - [optional] Starting position in the text to search. Optional, defaults to 1.
Usage notes 

The SEARCH function returns the position (as a number) of one text string inside another. If there is more than one occurrence of the search string, SEARCH returns the position of the first occurrence. SEARCH is not case-sensitive but does support wildcards. Use the FIND function to perform a case-sensitive find. When SEARCH doesn't not find anything, it returns a #VALUE error. Also note that when find_text is empty, SEARCH will return 1. This can cause a false positive when find_text comes from a cell, and the cell is empty.


To return the position of the first "a" in the word "Apple":

=SEARCH("a","Apple") // returns 1

Note that hardcoded text values must be enclosed in double-quotes ("").

To find the first match of "the" in any combination of upper or lowercase:

=SEARCH("the","The cat in the hat") // returns 1

Same search, starting at character 4:

=SEARCH("the","The cat in the hat",4) // returns 12

Wildcard usage:

=SEARCH("?at","The cat in the hat") // returns 5

Error if not found:

=SEARCH("dog","The cat in the hat") // returns #VALUE!

SEARCH can be used together with the ISNUMBER function to test for specific text in a cell:

=ISNUMBER(SEARCH(substring,text)) // returns TRUE or FALSE

See below for examples of SEARCH in more advanced formulas.


  • SEARCH returns the position of the first find_text in within_text.
  • Start_num is optional and defaults to 1.
  • Use the FIND function for a case-sensitive search.
  • SEARCH allows the wildcard characters question mark (?) and asterisk (*), in find_text.
    • ? matches any single character and
    • * matches any sequence of characters.
    • To find a literal ? or *, use a tilde (~) before the character, i.e. ~* and ~?.

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