VLOOKUP function – What is it?

A VLOOKUP is a spreadsheet function which looks for a specified value down the leftmost column of a table and when it finds that value, it returns a value from the same row.

We need to tell it what to search for (a red star in the below illustration), where to search for it (in the Shapes table in the below illustration) and which column number to return the value from (column 4 in the below illustration). The result of this request would return the red minus sign.

VLOOKUP meaning


An Example from the Real World

You know how to use a dictionary right?

You have a word and you go looking in a book for that word and you get its meaning. That’s what a VLOOKUP is. Using the VLOOKUP function, you can get excel to search for a word (or number or string) in a list and return a value from the same line.

vlookup example

… and in order to do so, you’d need to tell it what to look up (the word “elucidate”), where to look it up from (the table), and which column to get the meaning from (in this case, column C which is the 3rd column along in the table)

Next>> Learn how to build a VLOOKUP formula

Want to get good at using the VLOOKUP function?

Download our practical tutorial workbook with step-by-step instructions and examples to help you become a VLOOKUP pro.


VLOOKUP Formula Practical Examples

how to do price benchmarking

how to add quarters to your dates

how to add financial / fiscal year

how to use Wildcard Characters (* and ?) for partial matches

how to look for a word in a string


how to test if a value exists in another list

how to return a picture

how to look for part of a string or part of a word

lookup formula with multiple values

how to search between two workbooks using the builder (YouTube tutorial)




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