The default query language


A query consists of terms and operators. There are two types of terms: single terms and phrases. Multiple terms can be combined with operators such as AND and OR.

Whoosh supports indexing text in different fields. You must specify the default field when you create the whoosh.qparser.QueryParser object. This is the field in which any terms the user does not explicitly specify a field for will be searched.

Whoosh’s query parser is capable of parsing different and/or additional syntax through the use of plug-ins. See Parsing user queries.

Individual terms and phrases

Find documents containing the term render:


Find documents containing the phrase all was well:

"all was well"

Note that a field must store Position information for phrase searching to work in that field.

Normally when you specify a phrase, the maximum difference in position between each word in the phrase is 1 (that is, the words must be right next to each other in the document). For example, the following matches if a document has library within 5 words after whoosh:

"whoosh library"~5

Boolean operators

Find documents containing render and shading:

render AND shading

Note that AND is the default relation between terms, so this is the same as:

render shading

Find documents containing render, and also either shading or modeling:

render AND shading OR modeling

Find documents containing render but not modeling:

render NOT modeling

Find documents containing alpha but not either beta or gamma:

alpha NOT (beta OR gamma)

Note that when no boolean operator is specified between terms, the parser will insert one, by default AND. So this query:

render shading modeling

is equivalent (by default) to:

render AND shading AND modeling

See customizing the default parser for information on how to change the default operator to OR.

Group operators together with parentheses. For example to find documents that contain both render and shading, or contain modeling:

(render AND shading) OR modeling


Find the term ivan in the name field:


The field: prefix only sets the field for the term it directly precedes, so the query:

title:open sesame

Will search for open in the title field and sesame in the default field.

To apply a field prefix to multiple terms, group them with parentheses:

title:(open sesame)

This is the same as:

title:open title:sesame

Of course you can specify a field for phrases too:

title:"open sesame"

Inexact terms

Use “globs” (wildcard expressions using ? to represent a single character and * to represent any number of characters) to match terms:

te?t test* *b?g*

Note that a wildcard starting with ? or * is very slow. Note also that these wildcards only match individual terms. For example, the query:


will not match an indexed phrase like:

my so called life

because those are four separate terms.


You can match a range of terms. For example, the following query will match documents containing terms in the lexical range from apple to bear inclusive. For example, it will match documents containing azores and be but not blur:

[apple TO bear]

This is very useful when you’ve stored, for example, dates in a lexically sorted format (i.e. YYYYMMDD):

date:[20050101 TO 20090715]

The range is normally inclusive (that is, the range will match all terms between the start and end term, as well as the start and end terms themselves). You can specify that one or both ends of the range are exclusive by using the { and/or } characters:

[0000 TO 0025}
{prefix TO suffix}

You can also specify open-ended ranges by leaving out the start or end term:

[0025 TO]
{TO suffix}

Boosting query elements

You can specify that certain parts of a query are more important for calculating the score of a matched document than others. For example, to specify that ninja is twice as important as other words, and bear is half as important:

ninja^2 cowboy bear^0.5

You can apply a boost to several terms using grouping parentheses:

(open sesame)^2.5 roc

Making a term from literal text

If you need to include characters in a term that are normally treated specially by the parser, such as spaces, colons, or brackets, you can enclose the term in single quotes:

path:'MacHD:My Documents'
'term with spaces'