How to Use Wildcard in Google Sheets (3 Practical Examples)

Wildcards are a set of special symbols that help you for an effective search result and can represent a group of similar strings at a time. In this article, you will learn about the wildcard in Google Sheets.

A Sample of Practice Spreadsheet

You can download spreadsheets from here and practice.

What Are Wildcards in Google Sheets?

In Google Sheets, Wildcards are advanced search techniques that optimize your searching. The most common wildcard characters in Google Sheets are:

  • Question (?): It represents a single character in Google Sheets. For example, ‘T?m’ can refer to Tom, Tim, etc.
  • Asterisk (*): It represents any number of characters in Google Sheets. For example, ‘Tom*’ can refer to Tom, Tommy, Tomas, etc.
  • Tilde (~): This wildcard character is basically used before* or? wildcards. It instructs Google Sheets to treat these wildcards as a regular symbol. For example, the search term ‘T~*’ means to go for the exact word ‘T*’.

3 Practical Examples of Using Wildcard in Google Sheets

You can use wildcards in different types of functions to get your desired result. Wildcard makes the function more powerful, and the functions are able to present extensive results. the wildcard is mostly used in: SUMIF or COUNTIF function, conditional filtering, and VLOOKUP formulas.

Here, we discuss the use of different types of wildcards with these functions. To show the application of these wildcards we develop a dataset containing mobile phone information. The dataset has Brand, Model, and Sale Quantity columns.

dataset for wildcard in google sheets

1. Applying Asterisk(*) Wildcard

The asterisk wildcard will help you to look up values that you may not exactly remember. So, you can use this wildcard in a number of functions and can the result that you expect.

1.1 Using SUMIF or COUNTIF Functions

You can use this asterisk wildcard in both SUMIF and COUNTIF functions. To show the whole process here we apply the SUMIF function. You can run the COUNTIF function by following the same procedure.

  • First, create a row to show the sum result. Here we create a cell Total Sale to show the sale result.

insert cell in google sheets

  • Then insert the SUMIF function in cell G4.

insert sumif function in google sheets

  • After that select a range as per the function parameter. Here, we select the entire model column C5:C10 as the range.

select range for the function

  • Now, as a criterion argument select a specific value. We add “iPhone*”. Here, with the value, we insert “*” wildcard also to sum all the values that start with “iPhone”.

add criterion with wildcard in sumif function

  • At the end, apply the [sum_range] from where sum will be calculated. We insert D5:D10 as the sum range.

insert sum range

  • Finally, press ENTER and find the sum of all iPhone models.

sumif function with wildcard in google sheets

  • In the same way, insert the range and criterion for the COUNTIF function.

add countif function

  • To apply the function press, ENTER and get the desired result in the selected cell.

Read more: How to Check If Value Exists in Range in Google Sheets (4 Ways)

1.2 Filtering with Conditions

In Google Sheets, by using wildcards we can easily filter any data by applying conditions. To do so,

  • In the beginning, select the data range which you want to filter. Here, we select the entire dataset B4:D10.

select data to filter

  • Then go to the Data bar and select Create a filter option.

create filter in google sheets

  • Yow will find a filter symbol add to every column. Now, go to the column from which basis you want to filter.

insert filter symbol in all columns

  • Select Filter by condition.

apply filter in google sheets

  • Then select the Text contains option and insert the value you want to filter. Here, we add iphon*. The * wildcard will help to find this incomplete value easily. In the end, press OK.

insert value with wildcard to filter

  • Finally, you will find all values that contain “iPhone”.

filtered data in google sheets

Read More: Google Sheets: Filter Data that Contains Text (3 Easy Ways)

1.3 Performing VLOOKUP with Partial Match

If you want to look up any value that may not exactly match with the source dataset but have a partial match. In that case, the wildcard can be the most useful one. To look up partial value,

  • At the very beginning, insert the partial value in a cell. Here, we look up the partial value “sung” which we insert in cell G4.

insert look up value in google sheets

  • After that in cell G5 apply the VLOOKUP function.

apply vlookup function in google sheets

  • Add the wildcard with the partial value cell as the search key. Connect the two statements with the “&” symbol. Here, we add the “*” wildcard before the partial value as we look up for the starting value. You can insert it at the end as well as at both sides of the partial value if you look up for the end or middle portion.

insert search key with wildcard in the function

  • Then insert the range. Here we add B4:B10.

insert range

  • Add the index which represents the column number. We add 1.

input index value for the function

  • At the end, set is_sorted FALSE to get the exact result.

set false to get exact value

  • Finally, press ENTER and you will find the desired result in the selected cell.

Read More: How to VLOOKUP for Partial Match in Google Sheets

Similar Readings

2. Utilizing Question Mark(?) Wildcard

Like the asterisk (*) wildcard the question mark (?) wildcard also helps functions to work more efficiently. As the question mark wildcard represents a single character you have to input the question mark according to the value number. For example, if you want to find two alphabets of any word then you have to put two “?” symbols.

2.1 Applying SUMIF or COUNTIF Functions

In SUMIF and COUNTIF functions, the use of question mark (?) wildcard is the same as the asterisk wildcard.

  • Input the SUMIF function in cell G4.

add sumif function in google sheets

  • After that enter all the parameters accordingly. For criterion here, we insert “S?0”. So it will sum up all the values that start with S and end with 0.

insert wildcard as criterion in sumif function

  • Finally, press ENTER and you will find the sum of all S?0 values.

sumif with wildcard in google sheetd

2.2 Conditional Filtering Data

To filter value by using question mark wildcard,

  • First, select the entire dataset and insert the filter symbol in all columns by selecting the option Create a filter.

add filter in all columnas

  • Then, click on the filter symbol of the column on which basis you filter the entire dataset and go to Filter by conditions>Text contains, insert the value “S?0” and click OK.

filter value with wildcard

  •  Finally, you will get the filtered value.

filtered value in google sheets

Read More: How to Use Filter with Wildcard in Google Sheets (3 Examples)

2.3 Operating VLOOKUP with Partial Match

As the question mark (?) wildcard represents a single character so you can also look up for partial value by using this wildcard in the VLOOKUP function. To do so,

  • First, insert a value you look up for.

insert vlookup value in google sheets

  • Then apply the VLOOKUP function in cell G5.

apply vlookup function

  • Now, insert “?”&G4&”?” as the search key. As we have a middle partial value, and we look up the side value that’s why we add the “?” symbol on both sides. Connect all the statements by using the “&” symbol.

insert vlookup search key with wildcard

  • After that, add the range, index, and is_sorted in the same way we applied for the asterisk wildcard at the top.

apply vlookup function in google sheets

  • Finally, press ENTER and you will find the desired look up value in the selected cell.

apply vlookup function with wildcard in google sheets

Read More: How to Use VLOOKUP Function with Wildcard in Google Sheets

3. Implementing Tilde (~) Wildcard

The Tilde(~) wildcard is not often used but sometimes it can help you run a function smoothly. It is basically used with other wildcards to indicate that those wildcards are used as simple characters but not wildcards.

To show the use of a tilde wildcard,

  • First, we insert a value S*0 that contains an asterisk wildcard in the dataset.

dataset with wildcard as value

  • Then, apply the COUNTIF formula where the search key is S*0. So, the function counts all partial values including the exact S*0.

apply countif function with wildcard

  • We only want to count the S*0 value where the * is not used as a wildcard. So, we insert the Tilde(~) wildcard after the * symbol in the function.

add tilde wildcard

  • Finally, press ENTER and you will find that the * symbol counts as a simple character, and the function count only the “S*0” value.

Apply tilde wildcard in google sheets

Things to Remember

  • In the VLOOKUP function insert the wildcards carefully with partial values.
  • The Tilde(~) wildcard always insert after other wildcards.


We hope that you will clearly understand of a wildcard in Google Sheets. To dive deep and explore more about Google Sheets you can visit the OfficeWheel website anytime.

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Annyca Tabassum

Annyca Tabassum

Hello, I'm Annyca Tabassum. I currently work for the SOFTEKO as a technical writer and content developer. I have completed my graduation and post-graduation from SUST.

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