Extended query syntax

The following special operators and modifiers can be used when using the extended matching mode:

  • operator OR:
hello | world
  • operator MAYBE:
hello MAYBE world
  • operator NOT:
hello -world
hello !world
  • field search operator:
@title hello @body world
  • field position limit modifier:
@body[50] hello
  • multiple-field search operator:
@(title,body) hello world
  • ignore field search operator (will ignore any matches of ‘hello world’ from field ‘title’):
@!title hello world
  • ignore multiple-field search operator (if we have fields title, subject and body then @!(title) is equivalent to @(subject,body)):
@!(title,body) hello world
  • all-field search operator:
@* hello
  • phrase search operator:
"hello world"
  • proximity search operator:
"hello world"~10
  • quorum matching operator:
"the world is a wonderful place"/3
  • strict order operator (aka operator “before”):
aaa << bbb << ccc
  • exact form modifier:
raining =cats and =dogs
  • field-start and field-end modifier:
^hello world$
  • keyword IDF boost modifier:
boosted^1.234 boostedfieldend$^1.234
  • NEAR, generalized proximity operator:
hello NEAR/3 world NEAR/4 "my test"
  • SENTENCE operator:
all SENTENCE words SENTENCE "in one sentence"
  • PARAGRAPH operator:
"Bill Gates" PARAGRAPH "Steve Jobs"
  • ZONE limit operator:

only in these titles
  • ZONESPAN limit operator:

only in a (single) title
  • NOTNEAR, negative assertion operator:
Church NOTNEAR/3 street

Here’s an example query that uses some of these operators:

Example 5.2. Extended matching mode: query example

"hello world" @title "example program"~5 @body python -(php|perl) @* code

The full meaning of this search is:

  • Find the words ‘hello’ and ‘world’ adjacently in any field in a document;
  • Additionally, the same document must also contain the words ‘example’ and ‘program’ in the title field, with up to, but not including, 5 words between the words in question; (E.g. “example PHP program” would be matched however “example script to introduce outside data into the correct context for your program” would not because two terms have 5 or more words between them)
  • Additionally, the same document must contain the word ‘python’ in the body field, but not contain either ‘php’ or ‘perl’;
  • Additionally, the same document must contain the word ‘code’ in any field.

There always is implicit AND operator, so “hello world” means that both “hello” and “world” must be present in matching document.

OR operator precedence is higher than AND, so “looking for cat | dog | mouse” means “looking for ( cat | dog | mouse )” and not “(looking for cat) | dog | mouse”.

Field limit operator limits subsequent searching to a given field. Normally, query will fail with an error message if given field name does not exist in the searched index. However, that can be suppressed by specifying “@@relaxed” option at the very beginning of the query:

@@relaxed @nosuchfield my query

This can be helpful when searching through heterogeneous indexes with different schemas.

Field position limit additionally restricts the searching to first N position within given field (or fields). For example, “@body [50] hello” will not match the documents where the keyword ‘hello’ occurs at position 51 and below in the body.

Proximity distance is specified in words, adjusted for word count, and applies to all words within quotes. For instance, “cat dog mouse”~5 query means that there must be less than 8-word span which contains all 3 words, ie. “CAT aaa bbb ccc DOG eee fff MOUSE” document will not match this query, because this span is exactly 8 words long.

Quorum matching operator introduces a kind of fuzzy matching. It will only match those documents that pass a given threshold of given words. The example above (“the world is a wonderful place”/3) will match all documents that have at least 3 of the 6 specified words. Operator is limited to 255 keywords. Instead of an absolute number, you can also specify a number between 0.0 and 1.0 (standing for 0% and 100%), and Manticore will match only documents with at least the specified percentage of given words. The same example above could also have been written “the world is a wonderful place”/0.5 and it would match documents with at least 50% of the 6 words.

Strict order operator (aka operator “before”) will match the document only if its argument keywords occur in the document exactly in the query order. For instance, “black << cat” query (without quotes) will match the document “black and white cat” but not the “that cat was black” document. Order operator has the lowest priority. It can be applied both to just keywords and more complex expressions, ie. this is a valid query:

(bag of words) << "exact phrase" << red|green|blue

Exact form keyword modifier will match the document only if the keyword occurred in exactly the specified form. The default behavior is to match the document if the stemmed keyword matches. For instance, “runs” query will match both the document that contains “runs” and the document that contains “running”, because both forms stem to just “run” - while “=runs” query will only match the first document. Exact form operator requires index_exact_words option to be enabled. This is a modifier that affects the keyword and thus can be used within operators such as phrase, proximity, and quorum operators. It is possible to apply an exact form modifier to the phrase operator. It’s really just syntax sugar - it adds an exact form modifier to all terms contained within the phrase.

="exact phrase"

Field-start and field-end keyword modifiers will make the keyword match only if it occurred at the very start or the very end of a fulltext field, respectively. For instance, the query “^hello world$” (with quotes and thus combining phrase operator and start/end modifiers) will only match documents that contain at least one field that has exactly these two keywords.

Arbitrarily nested brackets and negations are allowed. However, the query must be possible to compute without involving an implicit list of all documents:

// correct query
aaa -(bbb -(ccc ddd))

// queries that are non-computable
aaa | -bbb

The phrase search operator may include a ‘match any term’ modifier. Terms within the phrase operator are position significant. When the ‘match any term’ modifier is implemented, the position of the subsequent terms from that phrase query will be shifted. Therefore, ‘match any’ has no impact on search performance.

"exact * phrase * * for terms"

NEAR operator is a generalized version of a proximity operator. The syntax is NEAR/N, it is case-sensitive, and no spaces are allowed between the NEAR keyword, the slash sign, and the distance value.

The original proximity operator only worked on sets of keywords. NEAR is more generic and can accept arbitrary subexpressions as its two arguments, matching the document when both subexpressions are found within N words of each other, no matter in which order. NEAR is left associative and has the same (lowest) precedence as BEFORE.

You should also note how a (one NEAR/7 two NEAR/7 three) query using NEAR is not really equivalent to a ("one two three"~7) one using keyword proximity operator. The difference here is that the proximity operator allows for up to 6 non-matching words between all the 3 matching words, but the version with NEAR is less restrictive: it would allow for up to 6 words between ‘one’ and ‘two’ and then for up to 6 more between that two-word matching and a ‘three’ keyword.

SENTENCE and PARAGRAPH operators matches the document when both its arguments are within the same sentence or the same paragraph of text, respectively. The arguments can be either keywords, or phrases, or the instances of the same operator. Here are a few examples:

one SENTENCE two
one SENTENCE "two three"
one SENTENCE "two three" SENTENCE four

The order of the arguments within the sentence or paragraph does not matter. These operators only work on indexes built with index_sp (sentence and paragraph indexing feature) enabled, and revert to a mere AND otherwise. Refer to the index_sp directive documentation for the notes on what’s considered a sentence and a paragraph.

ZONE limit operator is quite similar to field limit operator, but restricts matching to a given in-field zone or a list of zones. Note that the subsequent subexpressions are not required to match in a single contiguous span of a given zone, and may match in multiple spans. For instance, (ZONE:th hello world) query will match this example document:

<th>Table 1\. Local awareness of Hello Kitty brand.</th>
.. some table data goes here ..
<th>Table 2\. World-wide brand awareness.</th>

ZONE operator affects the query until the next field or ZONE limit operator, or the closing parenthesis. It only works on the indexes built with zones support (see index_zones) and will be ignored otherwise.

ZONESPAN limit operator is similar to the ZONE operator, but requires the match to occur in a single contiguous span. In the example above, (ZONESPAN:th hello world) would not match the document, since “hello” and “world” do not occur within the same span.

MAYBE operator works much like | operator but doesn’t return documents which match only right subtree expression.

NOTNEAR operator is a negative assertion. It matches the document when left argument exists and either there is no right argument in document or right argument is distance away from left matched argument’s end. The distance is specified in words. The syntax is NOTNEAR/N, it is case-sensitive, and no spaces are allowed between the NOTNEAR keyword, the slash sign, and the distance value. Both arguments of this operator might be terms or any operators or group of operators.