# What Is a Boolean Search?

Examples of Boolean operators

A Boolean search, in the context of a search engine, is a type of search where you can use special words or symbols to limit, widen, or define your search.

This is possible through Boolean operators such as AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR, as well as the symbols + (add) and - (subtract).

When you include an operator in a Boolean search, you're either introducing flexibility to get a wider range of results, or you're defining limitations to reduce the number of unrelated results.

Most popular search engines support Boolean operators, but the simple search tool you'll find on a website probably doesn't.

## Boolean Meaning

George Boole, an English mathematician from the 19th century, developed an algebraic method that he first described in his 1847 book, The Mathematical Analysis of Logic and expounded upon in his An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854).

Boolean algebra is fundamental to modern computing, and all major programming languages include it. It also figures heavily in statistical methods and set theory.

Today's database searches are largely based on Boolean logic, which allows us to specify parameters in detail—for example, combining terms to include while excluding others. Given that the internet is akin to a vast collection of information databases, Boolean concepts apply here as well.

## Boolean Search Operators

For the purposes of a Boolean web search, these are the terms and symbols you need to know:

Most search engines default to using the OR Boolean operator, meaning that you can type a bunch of words and it will search for any of them, but not necessarily all of them.

## Why Boolean Searches Are Helpful

When you perform a regular search, such as dog if you're looking for pictures of dogs, you'll get a massive number of results, possibly in the billions. A Boolean search would be beneficial here if you're looking for a specific dog breed or if you're not interested in seeing pictures for a specific type of dog.

Instead of just sifting through all the dog pictures, you could use the NOT operator to exclude pictures of poodles or boxers.

A Boolean search is particularly helpful after running an initial search. For instance, if you run a search that returns lots of results that pertain to the words you entered but doesn't actually reflect what you were looking for, you can start introducing Boolean operators to remove some of those results and explicitly add specific words.

To return to the dog example, consider this: you see lots of random dog pictures, so you add +park to see dogs in parks. Maybe those billions of results have now been cut down to several million. Now you want to remove the results that have water, so you include -water. Immediately, this one web search trick has let you cut down countless results that you're not interested in seeing.

## More Boolean Search Examples

Below are some more examples of Boolean operators. Remember that you can combine them and utilize other advanced search options such as quotes to define phrases.

Boolean operators need to be in all uppercase letters for the search engine to understand them as an operator and not a regular word.

### AND

Here's how to find free games by including both words:

````free AND games`
```

This one searches for video chat apps that can run on both Windows and iOS devices:

````"video chat app" iOS AND Windows`
```

### OR

Search for this to locate open houses that are open either day:

````"open houses" saturday OR sunday`
```

If you're not sure how the article might be worded, you can try a search like this to cover both words:

````"best web browser" macOS OR Mac`
```

### NOT

Find movies mentioning 2022, but exclude all pages that have the word comedy:

````2022 movies -comedy`
```

Locate web pages about paleo recipes, but make sure none of them include the words "add sugar":

````"paleo recipes" -"add sugar"`
```