Use Wildcards in COUNTIF Formula in Excel

Wildcards are helpful in searching for data throughout Excel and other database search tools. In my following example I have a list in which I want to count how many times Cincinnati appears in the list. The problem is that I have one entry as “Cincy” and the others as “Cincinnati”. The wildcard I will use is an asterisk. “Cin*” will find all cells that begin with “Cin”.

Excel list for Countif

Using data validation I could have prevented entries to a clean list. Stay tuned next time for a post on data validation.


The COUNTIF formula needs a range. This is simply the cells in which I want to do the counting from. The second part to the COUNTIF is the criteria. I use “Cin*” which the * represents zero or more characters. “Cin*” would find “Cincy” and “Cincinnati”. So my formula now correctly reads 4. If I had tried to count “Cincinnati” then the formula would of skipped over “Cincy” and would have given me 3.

countif cin

About Steve Chase

I'm a proud husband and dad to 4 boys! Microsoft Certified Trainer and Boy Scout Leader are some of things I call myself. The Cincinnati Reds are my favorite team! When not outdoors, I enjoy working with documents in Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, Visio and Photoshop. My wife, Erin, shares her awesome recipes on her blog at
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