Skip to main content

Searching code (legacy)

You only need to use the legacy code search syntax if you are using the code search API.

Note: This article covers the syntax for legacy code search, which you should only need to use for the REST API endpoint for searching code.

For information on the code search syntax that you can use on, see "Understanding GitHub Code Search syntax."

You can search globally across all of GitHub, or scope your search to a particular repository or organization. For more information, see "About searching on GitHub."

You can only search code using these code search qualifiers. Search qualifiers specifically for repositories, users, or commits, will not work when searching for code.


  • For a list of search syntaxes that you can add to any search qualifier to further improve your results, see "Understanding the search syntax".
  • Use quotations around multi-word search terms. For example, if you want to search for issues with the label "In progress," you'd search for label:"in progress". Search is not case sensitive.

Due to the complexity of searching code, there are some restrictions on how searches are performed:

  • You must be signed into a personal account on GitHub to search for code across all public repositories.
  • Code in forks is only searchable if the fork has more stars than the parent repository, and the forked repository has at least one pushed commit after being created. Forks with fewer stars than the parent repository or no commits are not indexed for code search. To include forks with more stars than their parent and at least one pushed commit in the search results, you will need to add fork:true or fork:only to your query. For more information, see "Searching in forks."
  • Only the default branch is indexed for code search.
  • Only files smaller than 384 KB are searchable.
  • Up to 4,000 private repositories are searchable. These 4,000 repositories will be the most recently updated of the first 10,000 private repositories that you have access to.
  • Only repositories with fewer than 500,000 files are searchable.
  • Only repositories that have had activity or have been returned in search results in the last year are searchable.
  • Except with filename searches, you must always include at least one search term when searching source code. For example, searching for language:javascript is not valid, while amazing language:javascript is.
  • At most, search results can show two fragments from the same file, but there may be more results within the file.
  • You can't use the following wildcard characters as part of your search query: . , : ; / \ ` ' " = * ! ? # $ & + ^ | ~ < > ( ) { } [ ] @. The search will simply ignore these symbols.

Search by the file contents or file path

With the in qualifier you can restrict your search to the contents of the source code file, the file path, or both. When you omit this qualifier, only the file contents are searched.

in:fileoctocat in:file matches code where "octocat" appears in the file contents.
in:pathoctocat in:path matches code where "octocat" appears in the file path.
in:file,pathoctocat in:file,path matches code where "octocat" appears in the file contents or the file path.

Search within a user's or organization's repositories

To search the code in all repositories owned by a certain user or organization, you can use the user or org qualifier. To search the code in a specific repository, you can use the repo qualifier.

user:USERNAMEuser:defunkt extension:rb matches code from @defunkt that ends in .rb.
org:ORGNAMEorg:github extension:js matches code from GitHub that ends in .js.
repo:USERNAME/REPOSITORYrepo:mozilla/shumway extension:as matches code from @mozilla's shumway project that ends in .as.

Search by file location

You can use the path qualifier to search for source code that appears at a specific location in a repository. Use path:/ to search for files that are located at the root level of a repository. Or specify a directory name or the path to a directory to search for files that are located within that directory or any of its subdirectories.

path:/octocat filename:readme path:/ matches readme files with the word "octocat" that are located at the root level of a repository.
path:DIRECTORYform path:cgi-bin language:perl matches Perl files with the word "form" in the cgi-bin directory, or in any of its subdirectories.
path:PATH/TO/DIRECTORYconsole path:app/public language:javascript matches JavaScript files with the word "console" in the app/public directory, or in any of its subdirectories (even if they reside in app/public/js/form-validators).

Search by language

You can search for code based on what language it's written in. The language qualifier can be the language name or alias. For a full list of supported languages with their names and aliases, see the github-linguist/linguist repository.

language:LANGUAGEelement language:xml size:100 matches code with the word "element" that's marked as being XML and has exactly 100 bytes.
language:LANGUAGEdisplay language:scss matches code with the word "display," that's marked as being SCSS.
language:LANGUAGEorg:mozilla language:markdown matches code from all @mozilla's repositories that's marked as Markdown.

Search by file size

You can use the size qualifier to search for source code based on the size of the file where the code exists. The size qualifier uses greater than, less than, and range qualifiers to filter results based on the byte size of the file in which the code is found.

size:nfunction size:>10000 language:python matches code with the word "function," written in Python, in files that are larger than 10 KB.

Search by filename

The filename qualifier matches code files with a certain filename. You can also find a file in a repository using the file finder. For more information, see "Finding files on GitHub."

filename:FILENAMEfilename:linguist matches files named "linguist."
filename:FILENAMEfilename:.vimrc commands matches .vimrc files with the word "commands."
filename:FILENAMEfilename:test_helper path:test language:ruby matches Ruby files named test_helper within the test directory.

Search by file extension

The extension qualifier matches code files with a certain file extension.

extension:EXTENSIONform path:cgi-bin extension:pm matches code with the word "form," under cgi-bin, with the .pm file extension.
extension:EXTENSIONicon size:>200000 extension:css matches files larger than 200 KB that end in .css and have the word "icon."

Further reading