Search for Data with Excel LOOKUP Function

 Use Excel's LOOKUP function -- vector form -- to retrieve a single value from a one-row or one-column range of data. Learn how with this step by step guide.

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Find Data in Columns or Rows with Excel's LOOKUP Function

Find Specific Information with Excel's LOOKUP Function - Vector Form
Find Specific Information with Excel's LOOKUP Function - Vector Form. © Ted French

Excel's LOOKUP function has two forms: 

How they differs is that: 

  • The Array form looks in the first  row or column of an array - a block of data containing multiple rows and columns - for the specified value, and then returns a value from the same position in the last row or column of the array.
  • The Vector Form searches a vector - a single row or column of data - for a specified value and then return a value from the same position in a second row or column.
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The LOOKUP Function Syntax and Arguments - Vector Form

A function's syntax refers to the layout of the function and includes the function's name, brackets, and arguments.

The syntax for the Vector Form of the LOOKUP function is:

= LOOKUP(Lookup_value, Lookup_vector, [Result_vector])

Lookup_value (required) - a value that the function searches for in the first vector. The Lookup_value can be a number, text, a logical value, or a name or cell reference that refers to a value.

Lookup_vector (required) - a range containing only one row or column that the function searches to find the Lookup_value. The data can be text, numbers, or logical values.

Result_vector (optional) - a range that contains only one row or column. This argument must be the same size as Lookup_vector.


  • For the LOOKUP function to work correctly, the Lookup_vector must be sorted in ascending order (A to Z or smallest to largest for numbers)
  • If the Result_vector argument is omitted, the function returns the Lookup_value argument if it is present in the Lookup_vector
  • If the function cannot find an exact match for the Lookup_value, it chooses the largest value in the Lookup_vector that is less than or equal in value to the Lookup_value;
  • If the Lookup_value is smaller than all values in the Lookup_vector, the LOOKUP function will return a #N/A error.
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LOOKUP Function Example

As seen in the image above, this example will use the Vector Form of the LOOKUP function in a formula to find the price of a Gear in the inventory list using the following formula:


To simplify entering the function's arguments, the LOOKUP function dialog box is used in the following steps. 

  1. Click on cell E2 in the worksheet to make it the active cell;
  2. Click on the Formulas tab of the ribbon menu;
  3. Choose Lookup and Reference from the ribbon to open the function drop down list;
  4. Click on the LOOKUP in the list to bring up the Select arguments dialog box;
  5. Click on the lookup_value, lookup_vector, result_vector option in the list;
  6. Click OK to bring up the Function Arguments dialog box;
  7. In the dialog box, click on the Lookup_value line;
  8. Click on cell D2 in the worksheet to enter that cell reference into the dialog box - in this cell we will type the part name that we are searching for
  9. Click on the Lookup_vector line in the dialog box;
  10. Highlight cells D5 to D10 in the worksheet to enter this range in the dialog box - this range contains the part names;
  11. Click on the Result_vector line in the dialog box;
  12. Highlight cells E5 to E10 in the worksheet to enter this range in the dialog box - this range contains the prices for the list of parts;
  13. Click OK to complete the function and close the dialog box;
  14. An #N/A error appears in cell E2 because we have yet to type a part name in cell D2
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Entering a Lookup Value

Click on cell D2, type Gear and press the Enter key on the keyboard

  1. The value $20.21 should appear in cell E2 as this is the price of a gear located in second column of the data table;
  2. Test the function by typing other part names into cell D2. The price for each part in the list will appear in cell E2;
  3. When you click on cell E2, the complete function
     =LOOKUP (D2, D5:D10, E5:E10) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.