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The $regex operator provides regular expression capabilities for pattern matching strings in queries. MongoDB uses Perl compatible regular expressions (i.e. “PCRE.”)

You can specify regular expressions using regular expression objects (i.e. /pattern/) or using the $regex operator. The following examples are equivalent:

db.collection.find( { field: /acme.*corp/i } );
db.collection.find( { field: { $regex: 'acme.*corp', $options: 'i' } } );

These expressions match all documents in collection where the value of field matches the case-insensitive regular expression acme.*corp.


$regex provides four option flags:

  • i toggles case insensitivity, and allows all letters in the pattern to match upper and lower cases.

  • m toggles multiline regular expression. Without this option, all regular expression match within one line.

    If there are no newline characters (e.g. \n) or no start/end of line construct, the m option has no effect.

  • x toggles an “extended” capability. When set, $regex ignores all white space characters unless escaped or included in a character class.

    Additionally, it ignores characters between an un-escaped # character and the next new line, so that you may include comments in complicated patterns. This only applies to data characters; white space characters may never appear within special character sequences in a pattern.

    The x option does not affect the handling of the VT character (i.e. code 11.)

New in version 1.9.0.

  • s allows the dot (e.g. .) character to match all characters including newline characters.

Only the i and m options are available for the native JavaScript regular expression objects (e.g. /acme.*corp/i). To use x and s options, you must use the $regex operator with the $options syntax.

To combine a regular expression match with other operators, you need to use the $regex operator. For example:

db.collection.find( { field: { $regex: /acme.*corp/i, $nin: [ 'acmeblahcorp' ] } } );

This expression returns all instances of field in collection that match the case insensitive regular expression acme.*corp that don’t match acmeblahcorp.


PCRE Matching Engine

$regex uses “Perl Compatible Regular Expressions” (PCRE) as the matching engine.

$in Expressions

To include a regular expression in an $in query expression, you can only use JavaScript regular expression objects (i.e. /pattern/ ). You cannot use $regex operator expressions inside an $in.

Index Use

$regex can only use an index efficiently when the regular expression has an anchor for the beginning (i.e. ^) of a string and is a case-sensitive match. Additionally, while /^a/, /^a.*/, and /^a.*$/ match equivalent strings, they have different performance characteristics. All of these expressions use an index if an appropriate index exists; however, /^a.*/, and /^a.*$/ are slower. /^a/ can stop scanning after matching the prefix.

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