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Searching For Part of a Word With Google

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Question: Searching For Part of a Word With Google
About Web Search reader Jaime writes in with a great question:

I have not had luck finding a search engine that will allow partial word searches, like anthropo* to search for words like anthropology,anthropophagi, etc., or *cycle for bicycle or tricycle. Is there any search engine that has this capability?

Answer: There's a couple ways you can accomplish what you're trying to do, which is basically instruct Google to "fill in the blank", so to speak.

Wildcard Search

Using an asterisk (*) within your search query as a substitute for an unknown word you're open to searching beyond regular results for (i.e., a "wildcard") can return some decent results. For example:

* now brown *

If you're looking for an exact duplication of the phrase you've entered in with your wildcard search, make sure you put quotes around it, so Google will know to return results with those exact words in that exact order:

"* now brown *"

Using "OR"

Using the Boolean search operator "OR" will help you track down results that have just one of several words, not results that have all of them. This is extremely helpful if you're looking for time-sensitive information; for example:

nfl schedule 2012 OR 2013

Of course, if you want Google to search for a specific phrase, enclose your query in quotes, i.e.:

"nfl schedule 2014" OR "nba schedule 2014"

Google Insights

Another way to look for parts of a word with Google is using Google Insights for Search, a tool anyone can use to look at search volume patterns in countries, time-frames, and cultural events.

Type in part of a word, for example, "cycle". With very little work at all, we get all sorts of results that include this word, including:

  • life cycle
  • water cycle
  • motor cycle
  • cell cycle
  • free cycle

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