Getting Around the 10 Word Limit

There are some clever ways around Google’s limit of 10 words to a query.

Unless you’re fond of long, detailed queries, you might never have noticed that Google has a hard limit of 10 words—that’s keywords and special syntaxes combined—summarily ignoring anything beyond. While this has no real effect on casual Google users, search-hounds quickly find this limit rather cramps their style.

Whatever shall you do?

Favor Obscurity

By limiting your query to the more obscure of your keywords or phrase fragments, you’ll hone results without squandering precious query words. Let’s say you’re interested in a phrase from Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” At first blush, you might simply paste the entire phrase into the query field. But that’s seven of your 10 allotted words right there, leaving no room for additional query words or search syntax.

The first thing to do is ditch the first couple of words; “The lady” is just too common a phrase. This leaves the five word “doth protest too much, methinks.” Neither “methinks” nor “doth” are words you might hear every day, providing a nice Shakespearean anchor for the phrase. That said, one or the other should suffice, leaving the query at an even four words with room to grow:

"protest too much methinks"


"doth protest too much"

Either of these will provide you, within the first five results, origins of the phrase and pointers to more information.

Unfortunately, this technique won’t do you much good in the case of “Do as I say not as I do,” which doesn’t provide much in the way of obscurity. Attempt clarification by adding something like quote origin English usage and you’re stepping beyond the ten-word limit.

Playing the Wildcard

Help comes in the form of Google’s full-word wildcard [Hack #13]. It turns out that Google doesn’t count wildcards toward the limit.

So when you have more than 10 words, substitute a wildcard for common words like so:

"do as * say not as * do" quote origin English usage

Presto! Google runs the search without complaint and you’re in for some well-honed results.


Common words such as “I,” “a,” “the,” and “of” actually do no good in the first place. Called “stop words,” they are ignored by Google entirely. To force Google to take a stop word into account, prepend it with a + (plus) character, as in: +the.

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