[[slop]] === Mixing It Up

Requiring exact-phrase matches ((("proximity matching", "slop parameter")))may be too strict a constraint. Perhaps we do want documents that contain quick brown fox'' to be considered a match for the queryquick fox,'' even though the positions aren't exactly equivalent.

We can introduce a degree ((("slop parameter")))of flexibility into phrase matching by using the slop parameter:


GET /my_index/my_type/_search { "query": { "match_phrase": { "title": { "query": "quick fox", "slop": 1 } } }


// SENSE: 120_Proximity_Matching/10_Slop.json

The slop parameter tells the match_phrase query how((("matchphrase query", "slop parameter"))) far apart terms are allowed to be while still considering the document a match. By _how far apart we mean how many times do you need to move a term in order to make the query and document match?

We'll start with a simple example. To make the query quick fox match a document containing quick brown fox we need a slop of just 1:

            Pos 1         Pos 2         Pos 3
Doc:        quick         brown         fox
Query:      quick         fox
Slop 1:     quick                 ↳     fox

Although all words need to be present in phrase matching, even when using slop, the words don't necessarily need to be in the same sequence in order to match. With a high enough slop value, words can be arranged in any order.

To make the query fox quick match our document, we need a slop of 3:

            Pos 1         Pos 2         Pos 3
Doc:        quick         brown         fox
Query:      fox           quick
Slop 1:     fox|quick  ↵  <1>
Slop 2:     quick      ↳  fox
Slop 3:     quick                 ↳     fox

<1> Note that fox and quick occupy the same position in this step. Switching word order from fox quick to quick fox thus requires two steps, or a slop of 2.