How to Use Mac OS X Mail Search Operators to Find Mail

Locate the email you want quickly

After you use the Apple Mail application for a while, you may build up an impressive number of folders and mailboxes that are filled to the brim with hundreds (or thousands) of emails. Finding a specific email is difficult, but you can add precision to your email search capabilities with macOS and OS X Mail search operators.

Information in this article applies to the Mail application on Macs running macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Mountain Lion (10.8).

Mac Mail app shown running on macOS Sierra

Search Returns List Longer Than Your Inbox?

Archives grow and so do search results. The mail you are searching for may bring up a long list of results.

Fortunately, the Mail application in macOS and OS X supports the use of several search operators, so you don't have to be bombarded with results. Combine these search operators with sender, date, and subject to zoom to the right result without much effort.

Use Apple Mail Search Operators to Find Mail Quickly

When you are searching for a specific email, use search operators to limit the search results in the Mail application. Here's how:

  1. Open the Mail application on your computer by clicking on its link in the Dock.

    The Mail icon in the Mac Dock
  2. Click in the Search field at the top of the Mail window.

    Mail window showing the search field
  3. Type the desired search term in the Mail Search field, using the following search operators where appropriate:

    The from search operator limits the search results to email senders when combined with quotation marks to specify names.

    • Type from:"Jack" in the search field to find all the emails you've received from Jack.
    • Type from:sender@example.com to find all mail from a specific sender at a specific domain.

    The to search operator limits the search results to email recipients.

    • Type to:"Carrie" in the search field to return all the emails you sent to Carrie.
    • Type to:recipient@example.com to find all sent mail addressed to a specific recipient at a specific domain.

    The subject search operator limits the search results to the contents of email subject lines.

    • Type subject:cookie in the search field to return all emails with the word "cookie" in the subject line.
    • Type subject:"cookie recipe" to find all mail with the phrase "cookie recipe" in the subject line.
    • Type subject:cookie subject:recipe to find all mail with both "cookie" and "recipe" in any order in the subject line.

    The date limits emails by date entered in MM-DD-YYYY format.

    • Type date:12/22/2019 to see emails received on December 22, 2019.
    • Type date:05/05/2019-10/10/2019 to find all mail received between May 5, 2019, and Oct. 10, 2019.
    search results for an email address in Mail on a Mac

The search results appear in the message list. Click on any of the emails to open it in the Mail preview window.