Use regular expressions in MySQL SELECT statements

Posted June 30, 2004 by Quinn McHenry in MySQL

A very cool and powerful capability in MySQL and other databases is the ability to incorporate regular expression syntax when selecting data. The regular expresion support in MySQL is extensive. This recipe reviews regular expression use in MySQL and lists the supported regular expression metacharacters.

The basic syntax to use regular expressions in a MySQL query is:

SELECT something FROM table WHERE column REGEXP 'regexp'

For example, to select all columns from the table events where the values in the column id end with 5587, use:

SELECT * FROM events WHERE id REGEXP '5587$'

A more elaborate example selects all columns of the table reviews where the values in the column description contain the word excellent:

SELECT * FROM reviews WHERE description REGEXP '[[:<:]]excellent[[:>:]]'

MySQL allows the following regular expression metacharacters:

. match any character
? match zero or one
* match zero or more
+ match one or more
{n} match n times
{m,n} match m through n times
{n,} match n or more times
^ beginning of line
$ end of line
[[:<:]] match beginning of words [[:>:]] match ending of words
[:class:] match a character class
i.e., [:alpha:] for letters
[:space:] for whitespace
[:punct:] for punctuation
[:upper:] for upper case letters
[abc] match one of enclosed chars
[^xyz] match any char not enclosed
| separates alternatives

MySQL interprets a backslash (\) character as an escape character. To use a backslash in a regular expression, you must escape it with another backslash (\\).


About Quinn McHenry

Quinn was one of the original co-founders of Tech-Recipes. He is currently crafting iOS applications as a senior developer at Small Planet Digital in Brooklyn, New York.
View more articles by Quinn McHenry

The Conversation

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  • Lawrence

    Thank you

  • ////AE

    Is there a way to use regexp when defining a table to SELECT $something from?

    • Brett

      Same question. I’m hoping to return only certain information within a row, not the entire row itself. I want to use REGEX to filter the results, not just find the results.

  • Anonymous

    may i know Why this query showing false result

    select “hellooo” REGEXP “^h[el]+o$”;

    • Shane


      i don’t know if you have the answer to your question yet, but your regexp is only look for one ‘o’. The $ sign means the absolute end of the string.

      You could either do:




      • Andy Mason

        Could also use the ‘+’ operator to match one or more o’s …

        select “hellooo” REGEXP “^h[el]+o+$”

  • Wayne

    I’ve been using mySQL for years, and I’ve been using regular expressions for years. Yet, somehow, I never found out until just now (from this recipe) that mySQL supported them in a manner like this. That’s amazingly useful. Thank you!

    (Of course, I also see that you wrote this recipe almost six years ago – so thank you for six years ago!) 🙂

    Does REGEXP have a bigger or smaller or identical performance hit when compared to using LIKE for substrings?

    For instance, here’s a couple pairs of otherwise equivalent queries. Within each pair, which would be better for performance?
    SELECT * FROM events WHERE id REGEXP ‘abcd’
    SELECT * FROM events WHERE id like ‘%abcd%’

    SELECT * FROM events WHERE id REGEXP ‘abcd.*lmnop’
    SELECT * FROM events WHERE id like ‘%abcd%lmnop%’

    Is LIKE just a specialize synonym for REGEXP which actually uses REGEXP in the background, or is it truly it’s own function? (Asked because if it uses REGEXP, then the performance hits should be identical within both those pairs.)

    Anyway, thanks again for adding a weapon to my arsenal that should have been there years ago. I can’t imagine how I’ve overlooked it for so long.


    • Anonymous


      I ran the following queries three times each on my MySQL database which has over 200,000 articles in it:

      SELECT * FROM `mos_content` WHERE title REGEXP ‘article’;
      SELECT * FROM `mos_content` WHERE title LIKE ‘%article%’;

      REGEXP averaged 0.047333333 seconds
      LIKE averaged 0.035333333 seconds

      There was hardly any deviation between the runs. But it’s obvious that LIKE is about 25% faster than REGEXP for some reason (at least on my specific MySQL configuration).

  • whoooooo… that’s cool!

    so anywa, how about we just want to select N until M row only?

    • Josef Schalk

      was geht denn mitr dir

  • How to select from a column that not have character? like in php !preg_match(‘/[a-z]/i’)

  • Gas

    sepp du depp

  • Sepp-seppelin_constructions

    like und dann %
    sepp du depp

  • Nikn


  • Ojio

    ach sepp

  • viji


  • Jo


  • Gasr


  • Hallo

    sepp du bist der depp

  • Asdfasd

    I think you use the ^ character to negate stuff:
    would find anything that wasn’t a to z.

  • hai

    SELECT *
    FROM words
    WHERE word REGEXP ‘^[able]+$’
    this query willl fetch all the words having these letters alone ie ab , able, abel, be.,like tat but it is also fetching bell , label ,bee, etc ie in input there is one l only but it also fetch the word having ll , ee like tat.
    Is there any way to remove duplicate letters in a word using regular exp in a query.

    Please do reply

  • Ssekirime Geofrey

    Thank youuuuuuuuu. very much Quinn.

  • santosh

    above Query is returning true why and if i want false then what should be my regular Expression

  • Sergio Abreu

    It seems that [:upper:] doesn’t work properly. I tried used LOWER( field ) REGEXP ‘[[:upper:]]+’ and it matched….

  • Sergio Abreu

    I discovered the problem. MySql regexp [:upper:] is not taken seriously if the field colation is case-insensitive, what I think is a MySql fault.

  • Anand

    Nice one indeed.

  • Scott

    Does anyone know if it’s possible to pass a variable inside the regex?

    for example: I would set $searchedword=’excellent’

    SELECT * FROM reviews WHERE description REGEXP ‘[[::]]’

  • Ashley Sheridan

    An otherwise good tutorial ruined by auto-playing audio adverts

  • hlslaughter

    I can’t seem to figure out how you select the matching text ONLY and not the whole value.