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SQL Wildcards


SQL Wildcard Characters

A wildcard character is used to substitute one or more characters in a string.

Wildcard characters are used with the SQL LIKE operator. The LIKE operator is used in a WHERE clause to search for a specified pattern in a column.

Wildcard Characters in MS Access

Symbol Description Example
* Represents zero or more characters bl* finds bl, black, blue, and blob
? Represents a single character h?t finds hot, hat, and hit
[] Represents any single character within the brackets h[oa]t finds hot and hat, but not hit
! Represents any character not in the brackets h[!oa]t finds hit, but not hot and hat
- Represents a range of characters c[a-b]t finds cat and cbt
# Represents any single numeric character 2#5 finds 205, 215, 225, 235, 245, 255, 265, 275, 285, and 295

Wildcard Characters in SQL Server

Symbol Description Example
% Represents zero or more characters bl% finds bl, black, blue, and blob
_ Represents a single character h_t finds hot, hat, and hit
[] Represents any single character within the brackets h[oa]t finds hot and hat, but not hit
^ Represents any character not in the brackets h[^oa]t finds hit, but not hot and hat
- Represents a range of characters c[a-b]t finds cat and cbt

All the wildcards can also be used in combinations!

Here are some examples showing different LIKE operators with '%' and '_' wildcards:

LIKE Operator Description
WHERE CustomerName LIKE 'a%' Finds any values that starts with "a"
WHERE CustomerName LIKE '%a' Finds any values that ends with "a"
WHERE CustomerName LIKE '%or%' Finds any values that have "or" in any position
WHERE CustomerName LIKE '_r%' Finds any values that have "r" in the second position
WHERE CustomerName LIKE 'a_%_%' Finds any values that starts with "a" and are at least 3 characters in length
WHERE ContactName LIKE 'a%o' Finds any values that starts with "a" and ends with "o"

Demo Database

Below is a selection from the "Customers" table in the Northwind sample database:

CustomerID CustomerName ContactName Address City PostalCode Country
1

Alfreds Futterkiste Maria Anders Obere Str. 57 Berlin 12209 Germany
2 Ana Trujillo Emparedados y helados Ana Trujillo Avda. de la Constitución 2222 México D.F. 05021 Mexico
3 Antonio Moreno Taquería Antonio Moreno Mataderos 2312 México D.F. 05023 Mexico
4

Around the Horn Thomas Hardy 120 Hanover Sq. London WA1 1DP UK
5 Berglunds snabbköp Christina Berglund Berguvsvägen 8 Luleå S-958 22 Sweden


Using the % Wildcard

The following SQL statement selects all customers with a City starting with "ber":

Example

SELECT * FROM Customers
WHERE City LIKE 'ber%';
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The following SQL statement selects all customers with a City containing the pattern "es": 

Example

SELECT * FROM Customers
WHERE City LIKE '%es%';
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Using the _ Wildcard

The following SQL statement selects all customers with a City starting with any character, followed by "ondon":

Example

SELECT * FROM Customers
WHERE City LIKE '_ondon';
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The following SQL statement selects all customers with a City starting with "L", followed by any character, followed by "n", followed by any character, followed by "on":

Example

SELECT * FROM Customers
WHERE City LIKE 'L_n_on';
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Using the [charlist] Wildcard

The following SQL statement selects all customers with a City starting with "b", "s", or "p":

Example

SELECT * FROM Customers
WHERE City LIKE '[bsp]%';
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The following SQL statement selects all customers with a City starting with "a", "b", or "c":

Example

SELECT * FROM Customers
WHERE City LIKE '[a-c]%';
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Using the [!charlist] Wildcard

The two following SQL statements select all customers with a City NOT starting with "b", "s", or "p":

Example

SELECT * FROM Customers
WHERE City LIKE '[!bsp]%';
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Or:

Example

SELECT * FROM Customers
WHERE City NOT LIKE '[bsp]%';
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