Excel HLOOKUP Function

This Tutorial demonstrates how to use the Excel HLOOKUP Function in Excel to look up a value.


HLOOKUP Function Overview

The HLOOKUP Function Hlookup stands for horizontal lookup. It searches for a value in the top row of a table. Then returns a value a specified number of rows down from the found value. It is the same as a vlookup, except it looks up values horizontally instead of vertically.

hlookup formula syntax

(Notice how the formula inputs appear)

HLOOKUP Function Syntax and Input:

lookup_value – The value you want to search for.

table_array -The table from which to retrieve data.

row_index_num – The row number from which to retrieve data.

range_lookup -[optional] A boolean to indicate exact match or approximate match. Default = TRUE = approximate match.

What is the HLOOKUP function?

As one of the older functions in the world of spreadsheets, the HLOOKUP function is used to do Horizontal Lookups. It has a few limitations that are often overcome with other functions, such as INDEX/MATCH. Also, most tables are built in a vertical fashion, but there a few times when it’s helpful to search horizontally.

Basic example

Let’s look at a sample of data from a grade book. We’ll tackle several examples for extracting information for specific students.HLOOK Basic Table

If we want to find what class Bob is in, we would write the formula:


Important things to remember are that the item we’re searching for (Bob), must be in the first row of our search range (A1:E3). We’ve told the function that we want to return a value from the 2nd row of the search range, which in this case is row 2. Finally, we indicated that we want to do an exact match by placing False as the last argument. Here, the answer will be “Reading”.

Side tip: You can also use the number 0 instead of False as the final argument, as they have the same value. Some people prefer this as it’s quicker to write. Just know that both are acceptable.

Shifted Data

To add some clarification to our first example, the lookup item doesn’t have to be in row 1 of your spreadsheet, just the first row of your search range. Let’s use the same data set:

HLOOK Basic Table

Now, let’s find the grade for the class of Science. Our formula would be

Hlook Shiped

This is still a valid formula, as the first row of our search range is row 2, which is where our search term of “Science” will be found. We’re returning a value from the 2nd row of the search range, which in this case is row 3. The answer then is “A-“.

Wildcard usage

The HLOOKUP function supports the use of the wildcards “*” an “?” when doing searches. For instance, let’s say that we’d forgotten how to spell Frank’s name, and just wanted to search for a name that starts with “F”. We could write the formula

HLOOK Wildcard

This would be able to find the name Frank in column E, and then return the value from 2nd relative row.  In this case, the answer will be “Science”.

Non-exact match

Most of the time, you’ll want to make sure that the last argument in HLOOKUP is False (or 0) so that you get an exact match. However, there are a few times when you might be searching for a non-exact match. If you have a list of sorted data, you can also use HLOOKUP to return the result for the item that is either the same, or next smallest. This is often used when dealing with increasing ranges of numbers, such as in a tax table or commission bonuses.

HLOOK Non exact

Let’s say that you want to find the tax rate for an income entered cell H2. The formula in H4 can be:


The difference in this formula is that our last argument is “True”. In our specific example, we can see that when our individual inputs an income of $45,000 they will have a tax rate of 15%.

Note: Although we usually are wanting an exact match with False as the argument, it you forget to specify the 4th argument in a HLOOKUP, the default is True. This can cause you to get some unexpected results, especially when dealing with text values.

Dynamic row

HLOOKUP requires you to give an argument saying which row you want to return a value from, but the occasion may arise when you don’t know where the row will be, or you want to allow your user to change which row to return from. In these cases, it can be helpful to use the MATCH function to determine the row number.

Let’s consider our grade book example again, with some inputs in G2 and G4. To get the column number, we could write a formula of

This will try to find the exact position of “Grade” within the range A1:A3. The answer will be 3. Knowing this, we can plug it into a HLOOKUP function and write a formula in G6 like so:

HLOOK Dynamic column

So, the MATCH function will evaluate to 3, and that tells the HLOOKUP to return a result from the 3rd row in the A1:E3 range. Overall, we then get our desired result of “C”. Our formula is dynamic now in that we can change either the row to look at or the name to search for.

HLOOKUP limitations

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the biggest downfall of HLOOKUP is that it requires the search term to be found in the left most column of the search range. While there are some fancy tricks you can do to overcome this <link to CHOOSE article>, the common alternative is to use INDEX and MATCH. That combo gives you more flexibility, and it can sometimes even be a faster calculation.

HLOOKUP in Google Sheets

The HLOOKUP Function works exactly the same in Google Sheets as in Excel:

HLOOK Google

Additional Notes

Use the HLOOKUP Function to perform a horiztonal lookup. If you’re already familiar with the VLOOKUP Function, an HLOOKUP works in exactly the same way except the lookup is performed horizontally instead of vertically. The HLOOKUP searches for an exact match (range_lookup = FALSE) or the closest match that is equal to or less than the lookup_value (range_lookup = TRUE, numeric values only) in the first row of the table_array. It then returns a corresponding value, n number of rows below the match.

When using an HLOOKUP to find an exact match, first you define an identifying value that you want to search for as the lookup_value. This identifying value might be a SSN, employee ID, name, or some other unique identifier.

Next you define the range (called the table_array) that contains the identifiers in the top row and whatever values that you ultimately wish to search for in the rows below it. IMPORTANT: The unique identifiers must be in the top row. If they are not, you must either move the row to the top, or use MATCH / INDEX instead of the HLOOKUP.

Third, define row number (row_index) of the table_array that you wish to return. Keep in mind that the first row, containing the unique identifiers is row 1. The second row is row 2, etc.

Last, you must indicate whether to search for an exact match (FALSE) or nearest match (TRUE) in the range_lookup. If the exact match option is selected, and an exact match is not found, an error is returned (#N/A). To have the formula return blank or “not found”, or any other value instead of the error value (#N/A) use the IFERROR Function with the HLOOKUP.

To use the HLOOKUP Function to return an approximate match set: range_lookup = TRUE. This option is only available for numeric values. The values must be sorted in ascending order.

HLOOKUP Examples in VBA

You can also use the HLOOKUP function in VBA. Type:

Executing the following VBA statements

will produce the following results

Vba hlookup function

For the function arguments (lookup_value, etc.), you can either enter them directly into the function, or define variables to use instead.

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