Regular expression syntax

A regular expression is a way to match patterns in data using placeholder characters, called operators.

Elasticsearch supports regular expressions in the following queries:

Elasticsearch uses Apache Lucene's regular expression engine to parse these queries.

Reserved characters

Lucene’s regular expression engine supports all Unicode characters. However, the following characters are reserved as operators:

. ? + * | { } [ ] ( ) " \

Depending on the optional operators enabled, the following characters may also be reserved:

# @ & < >  ~

To use one of these characters literally, escape it with a preceding backslash or surround it with double quotes. For example:

\@                  # renders as a literal '@'
\\                  # renders as a literal '\'
"john@smith.com"    # renders as 'john@smith.com'

Standard operators

Lucene’s regular expression engine does not use the Perl Compatible Regular Expressions (PCRE) library, but it does support the following standard operators.

.

Matches any character. For example:

ab.     # matches 'aba', 'abb', 'abz', etc.
?

Repeat the preceding character zero or one times. Often used to make the preceding character optional. For example:

abc?     # matches 'ab' and 'abc'
+

Repeat the preceding character one or more times. For example:

ab+     # matches 'ab', 'abb', 'abbb', etc.
*

Repeat the preceding character zero or more times. For example:

ab*     # matches 'a', 'ab', 'abb', 'abbb', etc.
{}

Minimum and maximum number of times the preceding character can repeat. For example:

a{2}    # matches 'aa'
a{2,4}  # matches 'aa', 'aaa', and 'aaaa'
a{2,}   # matches 'a` repeated two or more times
|

OR operator. The match will succeed if the longest pattern on either the left side OR the right side matches. For example:

abc|xyz  # matches 'abc' and 'xyz'
( … )

Forms a group. You can use a group to treat part of the expression as a single character. For example:

abc(def)?  # matches 'abc' and 'abcdef' but not 'abcd'
[ … ]

Match one of the characters in the brackets. For example:

[abc]   # matches 'a', 'b', 'c'

Inside the brackets, - indicates a range unless - is the first character or escaped. For example:

[a-c]   # matches 'a', 'b', or 'c'
[-abc]  # '-' is first character. Matches '-', 'a', 'b', or 'c'
[abc\-] # Escapes '-'. Matches 'a', 'b', 'c', or '-'

A ^ before a character in the brackets negates the character or range. For example:

[^abc]      # matches any character except 'a', 'b', or 'c'
[^a-c]      # matches any character except 'a', 'b', or 'c'
[^-abc]     # matches any character except '-', 'a', 'b', or 'c'
[^abc\-]    # matches any character except 'a', 'b', 'c', or '-'

Optional operators

You can use the flags parameter to enable more optional operators for Lucene’s regular expression engine.

To enable multiple operators, use a | separator. For example, a flags value of COMPLEMENT|INTERVAL enables the COMPLEMENT and INTERVAL operators.

Valid values

ALL (Default)
Enables all optional operators.
COMPLEMENT

Enables the ~ operator. You can use ~ to negate the shortest following pattern. For example:

a~bc   # matches 'adc' and 'aec' but not 'abc'
INTERVAL

Enables the <> operators. You can use <> to match a numeric range. For example:

foo<1-100>      # matches 'foo1', 'foo2' ... 'foo99', 'foo100'
foo<01-100>     # matches 'foo01', 'foo02' ... 'foo99', 'foo100'
INTERSECTION

Enables the & operator, which acts as an AND operator. The match will succeed if patterns on both the left side AND the right side matches. For example:

aaa.+&.+bbb  # matches 'aaabbb'
ANYSTRING

Enables the @ operator. You can use @ to match any entire string.

You can combine the @ operator with & and ~ operators to create an "everything except" logic. For example:

@&~(abc.+)  # matches everything except terms beginning with 'abc'

Unsupported operators

Lucene’s regular expression engine does not support anchor operators, such as ^ (beginning of line) or $ (end of line). To match a term, the regular expression must match the entire string.