Email Searching in Gmail with Operators

Gmail’s best feature is its email searching capabilities. Search terms or Operators help us finding mails more easily, effectively and conveniently. Thanks to Google’s proprietary search algorithms, we can find mails hidden deep inside. For example: Just adding after: or before: keyword, we can find mails within particular dates. Here are some more search terms that you might find useful in daily usage.

Operator Definition Examples
from: Used to specify the sender Example: from:amy
Meaning: Messages from Amy
to: Used to specify a recipient Example: to:david
Meaning: All messages that were sent to David (by you or someone else)
subject: Search for words in the subject line Example: subject:dinner
Meaning: Messages that have the word “dinner” in the subject
OR Search for messages matching term A or term B*
*OR must be in all caps
Example: from:amy OR from:david
Meaning: Messages from Amy or from David

Used to exclude messages from your search Example: dinner -movie
Meaning: Messages that contain the word “dinner” but do not contain the word “movie”
label: Search for messages by label Example: from:amy label:friends
Meaning: Messages from Amy that have the label “friends”

Example: from:david label:my-family
Meaning: Messages from David that have the label “My Family”

has:attachment Search for messages with an attachment Example: from:david has:attachment
Meaning: Messages from David that have an attachment
list: Search for messages on mailing lists Example:
Meaning: Messages with the words in the headers, sent to or from this list

filename: Search for an attachment by name or type Example: filename:physicshomework.txt
Meaning: Messages with an attachment named “physicshomework.txt”

Example: label:work filename:pdf
Meaning: Messages labeled “work” that also have a PDF file as an attachment

” “
Used to search for an exact phrase*
*Capitalization isn’t taken into consideration

Example: “i’m feeling lucky”
Meaning: Messages containing the phrase “i’m feeling lucky” or “I’m feeling lucky”

Example: subject:”dinner and a movie”
Meaning: Messages containing the phrase “dinner and a movie” in the subject

( ) Used to group words
Used to specify terms that shouldn’t be excluded

Example: from:amy (dinner OR movie)
Meaning: Messages from Amy that contain either the word “dinner” or the word “movie”

Example: subject:(dinner movie)
Meaning: Messages in which the subject contains both the word “dinner” and the word “movie”

Search for messages anywhere in Gmail*
*Messages in Spam and Trash are excluded from searches by default
Example: in:anywhere movie
Meaning: Messages in All Mail, Spam, and Trash that contain the word “movie”

Search for messages in Inbox, Trash, or Spam Example: in:trash from:amy
Meaning: Messages from Amy that are in Trash

Search within messages that Priority Inbox considers important. Example: is:important from:janet
Meaning: Messages from Janet that were marked as important by Priority Inbox

Search for messages that are starred, unread, or read Example: is:read is:starred from:David
Meaning: Messages from David that have been read and are marked with a star

Search for messages with a particular star Example: has:purple-star from:David
Meaning: Messages from David that are marked with a purple star

Used to specify recipients in the cc: or bcc: fields*
*Search on bcc: cannot retrieve messages on which you were blind carbon copied
Example: cc:david
Meaning: Messages that were cc-ed to David

Search for messages sent or received during a certain period of time
(using the date format yyyy/mm/dd)
Example: after:2004/04/16 before:2004/04/18
Meaning: Messages sent between April 16, 2004 and April 18, 2004.*
*More precisely: Messages sent after 12:00 AM (or 00:00) April 16, 2004 and before April 18, 2004.

Similar to older and newer, but allows relative dates using d, m, and y for day, month, and year Example: newer_than:2d
Meaning: Finds messages sent within the last two days.

Search for chat messages Example: is:chat monkey
Meaning: Any chat message including the word “monkey.”

Search for messages within a particular email address in the Delivered-To line of the message header Example:
Meaning: Any message with in the Delivered-To: field of the message header (which can help you find messages forwarded from another account or ones sent to an alias).

Search for messages that were sent from someone who you added to a particular Google+ circle Example: circle:friends
Meaning: Any message that was sent by a person in your “Friends” circle.

Examples: circle:”soccer friends (team blue)” or circle:”my \”fab four\””
Notes: For circle names that include a space, parentheses, curly brackets, or vertical bar, add quotes around the name. For names that include quotes, add a back slash immediately before the quotes.

Search for all messages that were sent from someone who you added to your Google+ circles Example: has:circle
Meaning: Any message that was sent by a person in any of your circles.

Search for messages within a category Example: category:updates
Meaning: All messages in the Updates category.

Example: category:social Mindy
Meaning: Messages in the Social category that include “Mindy.”

Search for messages larger than the specified size in bytes Example: size:1000000
Meaning: All messages larger than 1MB (1,000,000 bytes) in size.

Similar to size: but allows abbreviations for numbers Example: larger:10M
Meaning: All messages of at least 10M bytes (10,000,000 bytes) in size.


(plus sign)
Match the search term exactly Example: +unicorn
Meaning: Finds messages containing “unicorn” but not “unicorns” or “unciorn”

Find a message by the message-id header Example:
Meaning: Locates the exact message with the specified SMTP message-id. Learn more about headers.

Search for messages that have and have not had labels that you created applied to them.
NOTE: Gmail applies labels to individual messages, not to conversation threads.
Example: has:nouserlabels
Meaning: Finds all messages without any of your own labels (excludes automatic labels like inbox, spam, and trash). Since Gmail applies labels to individual messages, you might see results that appear to have labels; in this case, another message in the same conversation thread has had a label applied to it.

Via Google support

Related: Google Search Prefix Operators

Did you find this article useful -

Filed under Gmail Tricks. Posted by Abhishek and last updated on November 9, 2015.

Get Google Updates

Every Sunday, we send out "Google This Week" newsletter which covers all the latest and important updates from Google. First, we curate information from authentic and verified sources and then write the newsletter in an easy to understand format with images and summary for each update. View Sample ›

Join 9000+ subscribers following their favorite company in a simpler and easier way. Join Now ›