VLOOKUP Fuzzy Match in Excel (3 Quick Ways)

Today we are going to learn how to use VLOOKUP to search for Fuzzy Match in Excel.

While working with larger data sets, we often try to filter out similar values. One of these matching types is called Fuzzy Match, where the values are not exactly the same, but they are still matched based on their similarity.

So. Let’s discuss how you can use the VBA VLOOKUP function of Excel to search for Fuzzy Match.

Introduction to Fuzzy Match

A Fuzzy Match is a type of partial match.

In these types of matches, one text does not match fully to the other text. But the important sections of the text do match the other text.

Introduction to fuzzy match

In the given example, the book “The History of India during the World War” contains three important sections: History, India, and World War.

Therefore all the books that contain either one or more than one of these sections will fuzzily match the book.

So, the fuzzy matches are:

  • The History of the Second World War
  • History of the Ancient Greece
  • World War: Causes and Effects
  • The Indus Civilization: An Ancient History
  • India Wins Freedom
  • Adolf Hitler: Before and After the World War
  • The Discovery of India

VLOOKUP Fuzzy Match in Excel: 3 Approaches

Here we’ve got a data set with the Names of some books of a bookshop called.

Dataset for VLOOKUP Fuzzy Match

Our objective today is to use the VLOOKUP function of Excel to generate some Fuzzy Matches. Let’s discuss 3 different approaches.

1. VLOOKUP Fuzzy Match Using Wildcards (Entire Lookup_Value Matching)

  • First of all, we shall generate some fuzzy matches using the wildcard character the Asterisk (*) symbol. But remember, you have to match the entire lookup_value in this method, not the separate parts of the lookup_value.

For example, we can find a book containing the text “Second World War” in this way.

Only the books having the full text “Second World War” will match.

The formula is simple. Place an Asterisk (*) symbol on both ends of the lookup_value text.

The formula will be:

=VLOOKUP("*Second World War*",B5:B22,1,FALSE)

VLOOKUP function for Fuzzy Match

  • You can also use a cell reference in place of the original text. Use the Ampersand (&) symbol to merge them into a single text. Like this:


VLOOKUP Function for Fuzzy Match

To know more about VLOOKUP using wildcards, visit this article.

2. Fuzzy Match Using VBA

The method in the previous section fulfills our purpose partially, but not to the fullest.

Now we will derive a formula using a VBA code that will fulfill our purpose almost completely.

  • First, open a VBA window and insert the following VBA code in a new module:


Function FUZZYMATCH(str As String, rng As Range)

str = LCase(str)

Dim Remove_1(5) As Variant
Remove_1(0) = ","
Remove_1(1) = "."
Remove_1(2) = ":"
Remove_1(3) = "-"
Remove_1(4) = ";"
Remove_1(5) = "?"

Dim Rem_Str_1 As String
Rem_Str_1 = str
Dim rem_count_1 As Variant

For Each rem_count_1 In Remove_1
    Rem_Str_1 = Replace(Rem_Str_1, rem_count_1, "")
Next rem_count_1

Words = Split(Rem_Str_1)

Dim i As Variant
For i = 0 To UBound(Words)
    If Len(Words(i)) = 1 Or Len(Words(i)) = 2 Then
        Words(i) = Replace(Words(i), Words(i), " bt ")
    End If
Next i

Dim Final_Remove(26) As Variant
Final_Remove(0) = "the"
Final_Remove(1) = "and"
Final_Remove(2) = "but"
Final_Remove(3) = "with"
Final_Remove(4) = "into"
Final_Remove(5) = "before"
Final_Remove(6) = "after"
Final_Remove(7) = "beyond"
Final_Remove(8) = "here"
Final_Remove(9) = "there"
Final_Remove(10) = "his"
Final_Remove(11) = "her"
Final_Remove(12) = "him"
Final_Remove(13) = "can"
Final_Remove(14) = "could"
Final_Remove(15) = "may"
Final_Remove(16) = "might"
Final_Remove(17) = "shall"
Final_Remove(18) = "should"
Final_Remove(19) = "will"
Final_Remove(20) = "would"
Final_Remove(21) = "this"
Final_Remove(22) = "that"
Final_Remove(23) = "have"
Final_Remove(24) = "has"
Final_Remove(25) = "had"
Final_Remove(26) = "during"

Dim w As Variant
Dim ww As Variant
For w = 0 To UBound(Words)
    For Each ww In Final_Remove
        If Words(w) = ww Then
            Words(w) = Replace(Words(w), Words(w), " bt ")
            Exit For '
        End If
    Next ww
Next w
Dim Lookup As Variant
Dim x As Integer
x = rng.Rows.count
ReDim Lookup(x - 1)
Dim j As Variant
j = 0
Dim k As Variant
For Each k In rng
    Lookup(j) = k
    j = j + 1
Next k

Dim Lower As Variant
ReDim Lower(UBound(Lookup))
Dim u As Variant
For u = 0 To UBound(Lookup)
    Lower(u) = LCase(Lookup(u))
Next u

Dim out As Variant
ReDim out(UBound(Lookup), 0)

Dim count As Integer
co = 0
mark = 0
Dim m As Variant
For m = 0 To UBound(Lower)
    Dim n As Variant
    For Each n In Words
        Dim o As Variant
        For o = 1 To Len(Lower(m))
            If Mid(Lower(m), o, Len(n)) = n Then
                out(co, 0) = Lookup(m)
                co = co + 1
                mark = mark + 1
                Exit For
            End If
        Next o
        If mark > 0 Then
            Exit For
        End If
    Next n
    mark = 0
Next m

Dim output As Variant
ReDim output(co - 1, 0)
Dim z As Variant
For z = 0 To co - 1
    output(z, 0) = out(z, 0)
Next z

End Function

VBA Code for VLOOKUP Fuzzy Match

This code builds a function called FUZZYMATCH.

This FUZZYMATCH function finds out all the Fuzzy Matches of a Lookup Value directly.

The Syntax of this FUZZYMATCH function is:


To find out the Fuzzy Matches of the book “The History of India during the World War”, enter this lookup_value in a cell (D5 in this example) and enter this formula in another cell:


VLOOKUP Fuzzy Match

See, we have found all the Fuzzy Matches in the book “The History of India during the World War”

  • Here D5 is the cell reference of the lookup_value (“The History of India during the World War”).
  • B5:B22 is the lookup_range.

Let’s find out the Fuzzy Matches of another book called “A Notebook of the Causes behind the Crime of Big Cities”.

Enter this lookup_value in a cell (D5 in this example) and enter this formula in another cell:


 💡 Explanation of Formula

  • The FUZZYMATCH function is the function we built in VBA. It takes a string called lookup_value and a range of cells called lookup_range and returns an array of all the Fuzzy Matches of the string.
  • Therefore FUZZYMATCH(D5,B5:B22) returns an array of all the Fuzzy Matches of the string in cell D5 from the range B5:B22.

Read More: VLOOKUP and Return All Matches in Excel

3. Fuzzy Match Using Fuzzy Lookup Add-in of Excel

Microsoft Excel provides an Add-in called Fuzzy Lookup. Using it, you can match two tables for Fuzzy Lookup.

  • At first, download and install the Add-in
  • After successfully downloading and installing it, you will find the Fuzzy Lookup Add-in in your Excel Toolbar.

  • Then arrange the data sets into two tables that you want to match.

  • Here I’ve got two tables containing two lists of books from two bookshops called Robert Bookshop and Martin Bookshop.
  • Next, go to the Fuzzy Lookup tab> click Fuzzy Lookup tool in the Excel Toolbar.

  • Hence, you will get a Fuzzy Lookup table created in the side panel of your workbook.

In the Left Table and Right Table options, choose the names of the two tables.

For the sake of this example, choose Robert and Martin.

Then in the Columns section, choose the names of the columns of each table.

In the Match Column section, select the type of match that you want between the two columns. For Fuzzy Match, select Default.

  • Finally, click on Go. You will get the matching ratio of the tables in a new table.

Read More:How to Use VLOOKUP Function with Exact Match in Excel

Download Practice Workbook


Using these methods, you can use the VLOOKUP function of Excel to search for Fuzzy Match. Though these methods are not 100% efficient, still they are very useful. Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comment box. Don’t forget to share if you have better methods.

Further Readings

<< Go Back to Advanced VLOOKUPExcel VLOOKUP Function | Excel Functions | Learn Excel

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Rifat Hassan
Rifat Hassan

Rifat Hassan, BSc, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, has worked with the ExcelDemy project for almost 2 years. Within these 2 years, he has written over 250 articles. He has also conducted a few Boot Camp sessions on effective coding, especially Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Currently, he is working as a Software Developer to develop and deploy additional add-ins to enhance the customers with a more sophisticated experience with Microsoft Office Suits,... Read Full Bio

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