Searching Using Soundex Codes

Category: VBA Functions | [Item URL]

A companion file is available: Click here to download

Soundex is an indexing system that translates a name into a 4-digit code consisting of one letter and three numbers. The advantage of Soundex is its ability to locate names by the way they sound, rather than by exact spelling. For example, consider the name Maris. This name has a Soundex code of M620. Other variations on this name (such as Mares, Marriss, Mariss, and Mairis) all have the same Soundex code.

Soundex Rules

  1. Each Soundex code has exactly four alphanumeric characters (1 letter and 3 numbers)
  2. The first letter of the name is always the first character of the Soundex code.
  3. The remaining three digits are defined from the name using the Soundex Key Codes listed below.
  4. Adjacent letters in the name which have the same Soundex Key code number are assigned a single digit.
  5. If the name is not long enough to yield four characters,the code is padded with zeros.
Code Letter
1 B F P V
2 C G J K Q S X Z
3 D T
4 L
5 M N
6 R
No code A E H I O U Y W

The SOUNDEX function

This document presents a VBA function (named SOUNDEX) that converts a text string into a Soundex code. This function was developed by Richard J. Yanco.

The function can be used in a worksheet formula, or called from a VBA procedure. The SOUNDEX function is listed below. Notice that this function calls another function named Category.

Function SOUNDEX(Surname As String) As String
' Developed by Richard J. Yanco
' This function follows the Soundex rules given at

    Dim Result As String, c As String * 1
    Dim Location As Integer

    Surname = UCase(Surname)

'   First character must be a letter
    If Asc(Left(Surname, 1)) < 65 Or Asc(Left(Surname, 1)) > 90 Then
        SOUNDEX = ""
        Exit Function
'       St. is converted to Saint
        If Left(Surname, 3) = "ST." Then
            Surname = "SAINT" & Mid(Surname, 4)
        End If

'       Convert to Soundex: letters to their appropriate digit,
'         A,E,I,O,U,Y ("slash letters") to slashes
'         H,W, and everything else to zero-length string

        Result = Left(Surname, 1)
        For Location = 2 To Len(Surname)
            Result = Result & Category(Mid(Surname, Location, 1))
        Next Location
'       Remove double letters
        Location = 2
        Do While Location < Len(Result)
            If Mid(Result, Location, 1) = Mid(Result, Location + 1, 1) Then
                Result = Left(Result, Location) & Mid(Result, Location + 2)
                Location = Location + 1
            End If
'       If category of 1st letter equals 2nd character, remove 2nd character

        If Category(Left(Result, 1)) = Mid(Result, 2, 1) Then
            Result = Left(Result, 1) & Mid(Result, 3)
        End If
'       Remove slashes
        For Location = 2 To Len(Result)
            If Mid(Result, Location, 1) = "/" Then
                Result = Left(Result, Location - 1) & Mid(Result, Location + 1)
            End If
'       Trim or pad with zeroes as necessary
        Select Case Len(Result)
            Case 4
                SOUNDEX = Result
            Case Is < 4
                SOUNDEX = Result & String(4 - Len(Result), "0")
            Case Is > 4
                SOUNDEX = Left(Result, 4)
        End Select
    End If
End Function

Private Function Category(c) As String
'   Returns a Soundex code for a letter
    Select Case True
        Case c Like "[AEIOUY]"
            Category = "/"
        Case c Like "[BPFV]"
            Category = "1"
        Case c Like "[CSKGJQXZ]"
            Category = "2"
        Case c Like "[DT]"
            Category = "3"
        Case c = "L"
            Category = "4"
        Case c Like "[MN]"
            Category = "5"
        Case c = "R"
            Category = "6"
        Case Else 'This includes H and W, spaces, punctuation, etc.
            Category = ""
    End Select
End Function

The demo file (linked above) contains a list of more than 4,000 names. You can search for a name in the list, and specify an exact match or an approximate match.

If you choose an approximate match, you'll get a list of names that have the same Soundex code as the name you're searching for.

Search for Tips

All Tips

Browse Tips by Category

Tip Books

Needs tips? Here are two books, with nothing but tips:

Contains more than 200 useful tips and tricks for Excel 2007 | Other Excel 2007 books | Amazon link: John Walkenbach's Favorite Excel 2007 Tips & Tricks

Contains more than 100 useful tips and tricks for Excel 2013 | Other Excel 2013 books | Amazon link: 101 Excel 2013 Tips, Tricks & Timesavers

© Copyright 2019, J-Walk & Associates, Inc.
Privacy Policy