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Filtering

Pre and post-filtering

LanceDB supports filtering of query results based on metadata fields. By default, post-filtering is performed on the top-k results returned by the vector search. However, pre-filtering is also an option that performs the filter prior to vector search. This can be useful to narrow down on the search space on a very large dataset to reduce query latency.

result = (
    tbl.search([0.5, 0.2])
    .where("id = 10", prefilter=True)
    .limit(1)
    .to_arrow()
)
let result = await tbl
  .search(Array(1536).fill(0.5))
  .limit(1)
  .filter("id = 10")
  .prefilter(true)
  .execute();

SQL filters

Because it's built on top of DataFusion, LanceDB embraces the utilization of standard SQL expressions as predicates for filtering operations. It can be used during vector search, update, and deletion operations.

Currently, Lance supports a growing list of SQL expressions.

  • >, >=, <, <=, =
  • AND, OR, NOT
  • IS NULL, IS NOT NULL
  • IS TRUE, IS NOT TRUE, IS FALSE, IS NOT FALSE
  • IN
  • LIKE, NOT LIKE
  • CAST
  • regexp_match(column, pattern)

For example, the following filter string is acceptable:

tbl.search([100, 102]) \
   .where("(item IN ('item 0', 'item 2')) AND (id > 10)") \
   .to_arrow()
await tbl
  .search(Array(1536).fill(0))
  .where("(item IN ('item 0', 'item 2')) AND (id > 10)")
  .execute();

If your column name contains special characters or is a SQL Keyword, you can use backtick (`) to escape it. For nested fields, each segment of the path must be wrapped in backticks.

`CUBE` = 10 AND `column name with space` IS NOT NULL
  AND `nested with space`.`inner with space` < 2

Field names containing periods (.) are not supported.

Literals for dates, timestamps, and decimals can be written by writing the string value after the type name. For example

date_col = date '2021-01-01'
and timestamp_col = timestamp '2021-01-01 00:00:00'
and decimal_col = decimal(8,3) '1.000'

For timestamp columns, the precision can be specified as a number in the type parameter. Microsecond precision (6) is the default.

SQL Time unit
timestamp(0) Seconds
timestamp(3) Milliseconds
timestamp(6) Microseconds
timestamp(9) Nanoseconds

LanceDB internally stores data in Apache Arrow format. The mapping from SQL types to Arrow types is:

SQL type Arrow type
boolean Boolean
tinyint / tinyint unsigned Int8 / UInt8
smallint / smallint unsigned Int16 / UInt16
int or integer / int unsigned or integer unsigned Int32 / UInt32
bigint / bigint unsigned Int64 / UInt64
float Float32
double Float64
decimal(precision, scale) Decimal128
date Date32
timestamp Timestamp 1
string Utf8
binary Binary

You can also filter your data without search.

tbl.search().where("id = 10").limit(10).to_arrow()
await tbl.filter("id = 10").limit(10).execute();

If your table is large, this could potentially return a very large amount of data. Please be sure to use a limit clause unless you're sure you want to return the whole result set.


  1. See precision mapping in previous table.