Mixing It Upedit

Requiring exact-phrase matches may be too strict a constraint. Perhaps we do want documents that contain quick brown fox to be considered a match for the query quick fox, even though the positions aren’t exactly equivalent.

We can introduce a degree of flexibility into phrase matching by using the slop parameter:

GET /my_index/my_type/_search
{
    "query": {
        "match_phrase": {
            "title": {
            	"query": "quick fox",
            	"slop":  1
            }
        }
    }
}

The slop parameter tells the match_phrase query how far apart terms are allowed to be while still considering the document a match. By how far apart we mean how many times do you need to move a term in order to make the query and document match?

We’ll start with a simple example. To make the query quick fox match a document containing quick brown fox we need a slop of just 1:

            Pos 1         Pos 2         Pos 3
-----------------------------------------------
Doc:        quick         brown         fox
-----------------------------------------------
Query:      quick         fox
Slop 1:     quick                 ↳     fox

Although all words need to be present in phrase matching, even when using slop, the words don’t necessarily need to be in the same sequence in order to match. With a high enough slop value, words can be arranged in any order.

To make the query fox quick match our document, we need a slop of 3:

            Pos 1         Pos 2         Pos 3
-----------------------------------------------
Doc:        quick         brown         fox
-----------------------------------------------
Query:      fox           quick
Slop 1:     fox|quick  ↵  
Slop 2:     quick      ↳  fox
Slop 3:     quick                 ↳     fox

Note that fox and quick occupy the same position in this step. Switching word order from fox quick to quick fox thus requires two steps, or a slop of 2.