notmuch-search-terms man page

notmuch-search-terms — syntax for notmuch queries


notmuch count [option ...] <search-term> ...

notmuch dump [--format=(batch-tag|sup)] [--] [--output=<file>] [--] [<search-term> ...]

notmuch search [option ...] <search-term> ...

notmuch show [option ...] <search-term> ...

notmuch tag +<tag> ... -<tag> [--] <search-term> ...


Several notmuch commands accept a common syntax for search terms.

The search terms can consist of free-form text (and quoted phrases) which will match all messages that contain all of the given terms/phrases in the body, the subject, or any of the sender or recipient headers.

As a special case, a search string consisting of exactly a single asterisk ("*") will match all messages.

In addition to free text, the following prefixes can be used to force terms to match against specific portions of an email, (where <brackets> indicate user-supplied values):

tag:<tag> (or is:<tag>)
path:<directory-path> or path:<directory-path>/**

The from: prefix is used to match the name or address of the sender of an email message.

The to: prefix is used to match the names or addresses of any recipient of an email message, (whether To, Cc, or Bcc).

Any term prefixed with subject: will match only text from the subject of an email. Searching for a phrase in the subject is supported by including quotation marks around the phrase, immediately following subject:.

The attachment: prefix can be used to search for specific filenames (or extensions) of attachments to email messages.

The mimetype: prefix will be used to match text from the content-types of MIME parts within email messages (as specified by the sender).

For tag: and is: valid tag values include inbox and unread by default for new messages added by notmuch new as well as any other tag values added manually with notmuch tag.

For id:, message ID values are the literal contents of the Message-ID: header of email messages, but without the '<', '>' delimiters.

The thread: prefix can be used with the thread ID values that are generated internally by notmuch (and do not appear in email messages). These thread ID values can be seen in the first column of output from notmuch search

The path: prefix searches for email messages that are in particular directories within the mail store. The directory must be specified relative to the top-level maildir (and without the leading slash). By default, path: matches messages in the specified directory only. The "/**" suffix can be used to match messages in the specified directory and all its subdirectories recursively. path:"" matches messages in the root of the mail store and, likewise, path:** matches all messages.

The folder: prefix searches for email messages by maildir or MH folder. For MH-style folders, this is equivalent to path:. For maildir, this includes messages in the "new" and "cur" subdirectories. The exact syntax for maildir folders depends on your mail configuration. For maildir++, folder:"" matches the inbox folder (which is the root in maildir++), other folder names always start with ".", and nested folders are separated by "."s, such as folder:.classes.topology. For "file system" maildir, the inbox is typically folder:INBOX and nested folders are separated by slashes, such as folder:classes/topology.

Both path: and folder: will find a message if any copy of that message is in the specific directory/folder.

The date: prefix can be used to restrict the results to only messages within a particular time range (based on the Date: header) with a range syntax of:


See Date and Time Search below for details on the range expression, and supported syntax for <since> and <until> date and time expressions.

The time range can also be specified using timestamps with a syntax of:


Each timestamp is a number representing the number of seconds since 1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC.

The lastmod: prefix can be used to restrict the result by the database revision number of when messages were last modified (tags were added/removed or filenames changed). This is usually used in conjunction with the --uuid argument to notmuch search to find messages that have changed since an earlier query.

The query: prefix allows queries to refer to previously saved queries added with notmuch-config(1). Named queries are only available if notmuch is built with Xapian Field Processors (see below).

The property: prefix searches for messages with a particular <key>=<value> property pair. Properties are used internally by notmuch (and extensions) to add metadata to messages. A given key can be present on a given message with several different values.


In addition to individual terms, multiple terms can be combined with Boolean operators (and, or, not, and xor). Each term in the query will be implicitly connected by a logical AND if no explicit operator is provided (except that terms with a common prefix will be implicitly combined with OR). The shorthand '-<term>' can be used for 'not <term>' but unfortunately this does not work at the start of an expression. Parentheses can also be used to control the combination of the Boolean operators, but will have to be protected from interpretation by the shell, (such as by putting quotation marks around any parenthesized expression).

In addition to the standard boolean operators, Xapian provides several operators specific to text searching.

notmuch search term1 NEAR term2

will return results where term1 is within 10 words of term2. The threshold can be set like this:

notmuch search term1 NEAR/2 term2

The search

notmuch search term1 ADJ term2

will return results where term1 is within 10 words of term2, but in the same order as in the query. The threshold can be set the same as with NEAR:

notmuch search term1 ADJ/7 term2


Stemming in notmuch means that these searches

notmuch search detailed
notmuch search details
notmuch search detail

will all return identical results, because Xapian first "reduces" the term to the common stem (here 'detail') and then performs the search.

There are two ways to turn this off: a search for a capitalized word will be performed unstemmed, so that one can search for "John" and not get results for "Johnson"; phrase searches are also unstemmed (see below for details). Stemming is currently only supported for English. Searches for words in other languages will be performed unstemmed.


It is possible to use a trailing '*' as a wildcard. A search for 'wildc*' will match 'wildcard', 'wildcat', etc.

Boolean and Probabilistic Prefixes

Xapian (and hence notmuch) prefixes are either boolean, supporting exact matches like "tag:inbox" or probabilistic, supporting a more flexible term based searching. The prefixes currently supported by notmuch are as follows.

tag:, id:, thread:, folder:, path:, property:
from:, to:, subject:, attachment:, mimetype:

Terms and phrases

In general Xapian distinguishes between lists of terms and phrases. Phrases are indicated by double quotes (but beware you probably need to protect those from your shell) and insist that those unstemmed words occur in that order. One useful, but initially surprising feature is that the following are equivalant ways to write the same phrase.

"a list of words"

Both parenthesised lists of terms and quoted phrases are ok with probabilisitic prefixes such as to:, from:, and subject:. In particular

subject:(pizza free)

is equivalent to

subject:pizza and subject:free

Both of these will match a subject "Free Delicious Pizza" while

subject:"pizza free"

will not.

Xapian Field Processors

Certain optional features of the notmuch query processor rely on the presence of the Xapian field processor API. You can determine if your notmuch was built against a sufficiently recent version of Xapian by running

% notmuch config get built_with.field_processor

Currently the following features require field processor support:

non-range date queries, e.g. "date:today"
named queries e.g. "query:my_special_query"

See Also

notmuch(1), notmuch-config(1), notmuch-count(1), notmuch-dump(1), notmuch-hooks(5), notmuch-insert(1), notmuch-new(1), notmuch-reply(1), notmuch-restore(1), notmuch-search(1), notmuch-show(1), notmuch-tag(1)


Carl Worth and many others

Referenced By

notmuch(1), notmuch-address(1), notmuch-compact(1), notmuch-config(1), notmuch-count(1), notmuch-dump(1), notmuch-hooks(5), notmuch-insert(1), notmuch-new(1), notmuch-reply(1), notmuch-restore(1), notmuch-search(1), notmuch-show(1), notmuch-tag(1).

Explore man page connections for notmuch-search-terms(7).

notmuch 0.23 Oct 04, 2016