Similarity search

Learn how to do similarity search in YSQL

Similarity matching works by determining how similar two different strings are. This can be helpful when you don't know the exact spelling of your query term and can be used to design spell checkers.



To set up a local universe, refer to Set up a local YugabyteDB universe.


To set up a cluster, refer to Set up a YugabyteDB Managed cluster.


To set up a universe, refer to Set up a YugabyteDB Anywhere universe.

Create the following table:

    id SERIAL,
    word TEXT NOT NULL,

Load some sample words into the table as follows:



The Levenshtein distance is a measure of the difference between 2 strings. It calculates the difference by considering the number of edits (insertions, deletions, and substitutions) needed for one string to be transformed into another. This is particularly useful for spell-checks. This function is provided by the PostgreSQL extension fuzzystrmatch.

To enable the Levenshtein function, activate the fuzzystrmatch extension as follows:

CREATE extension IF NOT EXISTS fuzzystrmatch;

For example, to identify how the different mis-spellings of the warehouse, do the following:

SELECT word, levenshtein('warehouse', word) FROM words WHERE levenshtein('warehouse', word) < 3  ORDER BY levenshtein('warehouse', word) ASC LIMIT 10;
    word    | levenshtein
 warehouse  |           0
 warmhouse  |           1
 warehoused |           1
 warehouser |           1
 warhorse   |           2
 tirehouse  |           2
 washhouse  |           2
 carhouse   |           2
 firehouse  |           2
 gatehouse  |           2

The Levenshtein scoring for warehoused is 1 because it has one more character (d) than warehouse. The scoring is 2 for wayhouse because it needs two edits (r->y and del e).


A trigram is a group of three consecutive characters taken from a string. You can measure the similarity of two strings by counting the number of trigrams they share. The pg_trgm extension provides multiple functions like show_trgm and similarity, which provide a score of how similar two strings are.

For example, the trigrams for warehouse would be as follows:

{"  w"," wa",are,eho,hou,ous,reh,"se ",use,war}

To enable the trigrams functionality, activate the pg_trgm extension:

CREATE extension IF NOT EXISTS pg_trgm;

For example, suppose you are looking for words with spelling close to geodymamist. To get the actual word, you could do the following:

SELECT word, similarity(word, 'geodymamist') as score FROM words ORDER BY score DESC LIMIT 5;
     word      |  score
 geodynamicist | 0.444444
 geodesist     |    0.375
 geochemist    | 0.352941
 geodynamics   | 0.333333
 geologist     | 0.294118

To match word boundaries by avoiding cross-word trigrams, you can use the strict_word_similarity function. For example:

SELECT strict_word_similarity('word', 'two words'), similarity('word', 'two words');
 strict_word_similarity | similarity
               0.571429 |   0.363636

The strict_word_similarity is higher than the similarity as it gave higher importance to the presence of the exact term word in both strings.

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