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Distinct values

Excel formula: Distinct values
Generic formula 

To extract a list of distinct values from a set of data (i.e. values that appear just once), you can use the UNIQUE function. In the example shown, the formula in D5 is:


which outputs the 2 distinct values in the data, "purple", and "gray".

How this formula works

This example uses the UNIQUE function. With default settings, UNIQUE will output a list of unique values, i.e. values that appear one or more times in the source data. However, UNIQUE has an optional third argument, called "occurs_once" that, when set to TRUE, will cause UNIQUE to return only values that appear once in the data.

In the example shown, UNIQUE's arguments are configures like this:

  • array - B5:B16
  • by_col - FALSE
  • occurs_once - TRUE

Because occurs_once is set to TRUE,  UNIQUE outputs the 2 values in the data that appear just once: "purple", and "gray".

Notice the by_col argument is optional and defaults to FALSE, so it can be omitted:


TRUE and FALSE can also be replaced with 1 and zero like this:


Dynamic source range

UNIQUE won't automatically change the source range if data is added or deleted. To give UNIQUE a dynamic range that will automatically resize as needed, you can use an Excel Table, or create a dynamic named range with a formula. 

Note: This function is a new "Dynamic Array Function" in Excel. It is a beta feature available only through the Office Insiders program. Dynamic Array functions are expected to be released in 2019 to Office 365 subscribers.
Dave Bruns

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