Regexp Queryedit

The regexp query allows you to use regular expression term queries. See Regular expression syntax for details of the supported regular expression language. The "term queries" in that first sentence means that Elasticsearch will apply the regexp to the terms produced by the tokenizer for that field, and not to the original text of the field.

Note: The performance of a regexp query heavily depends on the regular expression chosen. Matching everything like .* is very slow as well as using lookaround regular expressions. If possible, you should try to use a long prefix before your regular expression starts. Wildcard matchers like .*?+ will mostly lower performance.

GET /_search
    "query": {
            "name.first": "s.*y"

Boosting is also supported

GET /_search
    "query": {

You can also use special flags

GET /_search
    "query": {
            "name.first": {
                "value": "s.*y",
                "flags" : "INTERSECTION|COMPLEMENT|EMPTY"

Possible flags are ALL (default), ANYSTRING, COMPLEMENT, EMPTY, INTERSECTION, INTERVAL, or NONE. Please check the Lucene documentation for their meaning

Regular expressions are dangerous because it’s easy to accidentally create an innocuous looking one that requires an exponential number of internal determinized automaton states (and corresponding RAM and CPU) for Lucene to execute. Lucene prevents these using the max_determinized_states setting (defaults to 10000). You can raise this limit to allow more complex regular expressions to execute.

GET /_search
    "query": {
            "name.first": {
                "value": "s.*y",
                "flags" : "INTERSECTION|COMPLEMENT|EMPTY",
                "max_determinized_states": 20000

Regular expression syntaxedit

Regular expression queries are supported by the regexp and the query_string queries. The Lucene regular expression engine is not Perl-compatible but supports a smaller range of operators.


We will not attempt to explain regular expressions, but just explain the supported operators.

Standard operatorsedit


Most regular expression engines allow you to match any part of a string. If you want the regexp pattern to start at the beginning of the string or finish at the end of the string, then you have to anchor it specifically, using ^ to indicate the beginning or $ to indicate the end.

Lucene’s patterns are always anchored. The pattern provided must match the entire string. For string "abcde":

ab.*     # match
abcd     # no match
Allowed characters

Any Unicode characters may be used in the pattern, but certain characters are reserved and must be escaped. The standard reserved characters are:

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

If you enable optional features (see below) then these characters may also be reserved:

# @ & < >  ~

Any reserved character can be escaped with a backslash "\*" including a literal backslash character: "\\"

Additionally, any characters (except double quotes) are interpreted literally when surrounded by double quotes:

Match any character

The period "." can be used to represent any character. For string "abcde":

ab...   # match
a.c.e   # match

The plus sign "+" can be used to repeat the preceding shortest pattern once or more times. For string "aaabbb":

a+b+        # match
aa+bb+      # match
a+.+        # match
aa+bbb+     # match

The asterisk "*" can be used to match the preceding shortest pattern zero-or-more times. For string "aaabbb":

a*b*        # match
a*b*c*      # match
.*bbb.*     # match
aaa*bbb*    # match

The question mark "?" makes the preceding shortest pattern optional. It matches zero or one times. For string "aaabbb":

aaa?bbb?    # match
aaaa?bbbb?  # match
.....?.?    # match
aa?bb?      # no match

Curly brackets "{}" can be used to specify a minimum and (optionally) a maximum number of times the preceding shortest pattern can repeat. The allowed forms are:

{5}     # repeat exactly 5 times
{2,5}   # repeat at least twice and at most 5 times
{2,}    # repeat at least twice

For string "aaabbb":

a{3}b{3}        # match
a{2,4}b{2,4}    # match
a{2,}b{2,}      # match
.{3}.{3}        # match
a{4}b{4}        # no match
a{4,6}b{4,6}    # no match
a{4,}b{4,}      # no match

Parentheses "()" can be used to form sub-patterns. The quantity operators listed above operate on the shortest previous pattern, which can be a group. For string "ababab":

(ab)+       # match
ab(ab)+     # match
(..)+       # match
(...)+      # no match
(ab)*       # match
abab(ab)?   # match
ab(ab)?     # no match
(ab){3}     # match
(ab){1,2}   # no match

The pipe symbol "|" acts as an OR operator. The match will succeed if the pattern on either the left-hand side OR the right-hand side matches. The alternation applies to the longest pattern, not the shortest. For string "aabb":

aabb|bbaa   # match
aacc|bb     # no match
aa(cc|bb)   # match
a+|b+       # no match
a+b+|b+a+   # match
a+(b|c)+    # match
Character classes

Ranges of potential characters may be represented as character classes by enclosing them in square brackets "[]". A leading ^ negates the character class. The allowed forms are:

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

Note that the dash "-" indicates a range of characters, unless it is the first character or if it is escaped with a backslash.

For string "abcd":

ab[cd]+     # match
[a-d]+      # match
[^a-d]+     # no match

Optional operatorsedit

These operators are available by default as the flags parameter defaults to ALL. Different flag combinations (concatenated with "|") can be used to enable/disable specific operators:

    "regexp": {
        "username": {
            "value": "john~athon<1-5>",
            "flags": "COMPLEMENT|INTERVAL"

The complement is probably the most useful option. The shortest pattern that follows a tilde "~" is negated. For instance, `"ab~cd" means:

  • Starts with a
  • Followed by b
  • Followed by a string of any length that it anything but c
  • Ends with d

For the string "abcdef":

ab~df     # match
ab~cf     # match
ab~cdef   # no match
a~(cb)def # match
a~(bc)def # no match

Enabled with the COMPLEMENT or ALL flags.


The interval option enables the use of numeric ranges, enclosed by angle brackets "<>". For string: "foo80":

foo<1-100>     # match
foo<01-100>    # match
foo<001-100>   # no match

Enabled with the INTERVAL or ALL flags.


The ampersand "&" joins two patterns in a way that both of them have to match. For string "aaabbb":

aaa.+&.+bbb     # match
aaa&bbb         # no match

Using this feature usually means that you should rewrite your regular expression.

Enabled with the INTERSECTION or ALL flags.

Any string

The at sign "@" matches any string in its entirety. This could be combined with the intersection and complement above to express “everything except”. For instance:

@&~(foo.+)      # anything except string beginning with "foo"

Enabled with the ANYSTRING or ALL flags.