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It only rarely happens, but once or twice I've found it desirable to be able to search the web for a set of search terms that includes a negative number. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any obvious way to do this.

Simply including the number, e.g. -9 in the search terms will cause Google to exclude all results containing the number 9, since it treats - as an exclusion operator. Alone, a search for -9 returns nothing.

Similarly, enclosing it in quotes "-9" returns results for 9, not -9. But I need to disambiguate them: in my particular search, results including 9 are useless while I actually need results for -9.

A note on Google's own product forums indicates that even Google's own employees don't know how, or if, this can be done.

Is it even possible to do this at all?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The short and sad answer is:

You can't!


If you're interested in results pertaining to coding/sysadmin'ing, I'd go for http://symbolhound.com/ - it's a search engine that literally takes your literal search queries literal, but it's focused on subjects relevant to coding and system development so it only works well for searches in these or related domains.

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1  
Wow, I put in -9 and got results for kill -9, which is more or less what I expect. This is the best idea I've heard so far. –  Michael Hampton Sep 30 '13 at 8:04

You could add double quotes around your query. "kill -9" includes results with -9.

"By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change." google search advanced operators

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You're almost there. Though this also returns plenty of news articles reporting on nine people who died for one reason or another. –  Michael Hampton Oct 3 '13 at 19:31
    
Good point. It looks like it is silently ignoring the minus sign and just giving results for 9. I think that the ultimate answer is you really can't do it correctly. –  jackskellington27 Oct 3 '13 at 20:47

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