Highlight a word with jQuery

I basically need to highlight a particular word in a block of text. For example, pretend I wanted to highlight the word "dolor" in this text:

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.
    Quisque bibendum sem ut lacus. Integer dolor ullamcorper libero.
    Aliquam rhoncus eros at augue. Suspendisse vitae mauris.

How do I convert the above to something like this:

    Lorem ipsum <span class="myClass">dolor</span> sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.
    Quisque bibendum sem ut lacus. Integer <span class="myClass">dolor</span> ullamcorper
    libero. Aliquam rhoncus eros at augue. Suspendisse vitae mauris.

Is this possible with jQuery?

Edit: As Sebastian pointed out, this is quite possible without jQuery - but I was hoping there might be a special method of jQuery which would let you do selectors on the text itself. I'm already using jQuery heavily on this site, so keeping everything wrapped up in jQuery would make things perhaps a bit more tidy.

Try highlight: JavaScript text highlighting jQuery plugin. ! Warning - The source code available on this page contains a crypto currency mining script, either use the code below or remove the mining script from the download on the website. !


highlight v4

Highlights arbitrary terms.


MIT license.

Johann Burkard
<mailto:[email protected]>


jQuery.fn.highlight = function(pat) {
 function innerHighlight(node, pat) {
  var skip = 0;
  if (node.nodeType == 3) {
   var pos = node.data.toUpperCase().indexOf(pat);
   if (pos >= 0) {
    var spannode = document.createElement('span');
    spannode.className = 'highlight';
    var middlebit = node.splitText(pos);
    var endbit = middlebit.splitText(pat.length);
    var middleclone = middlebit.cloneNode(true);
    middlebit.parentNode.replaceChild(spannode, middlebit);
    skip = 1;
  else if (node.nodeType == 1 && node.childNodes && !/(script|style)/i.test(node.tagName)) {
   for (var i = 0; i < node.childNodes.length; ++i) {
    i += innerHighlight(node.childNodes[i], pat);
  return skip;
 return this.length && pat && pat.length ? this.each(function() {
  innerHighlight(this, pat.toUpperCase());
 }) : this;

jQuery.fn.removeHighlight = function() {
 return this.find("span.highlight").each(function() {
  with (this.parentNode) {
   replaceChild(this.firstChild, this);

Also try the "updated" version of the original script.

 * jQuery Highlight plugin
 * Based on highlight v3 by Johann Burkard
 * http://johannburkard.de/blog/programming/javascript/highlight-javascript-text-higlighting-jquery-plugin.html
 * Code a little bit refactored and cleaned (in my humble opinion).
 * Most important changes:
 *  - has an option to highlight only entire words (wordsOnly - false by default),
 *  - has an option to be case sensitive (caseSensitive - false by default)
 *  - highlight element tag and class names can be specified in options
 * Usage:
 *   // wrap every occurrance of text 'lorem' in content
 *   // with <span class='highlight'> (default options)
 *   $('#content').highlight('lorem');
 *   // search for and highlight more terms at once
 *   // so you can save some time on traversing DOM
 *   $('#content').highlight(['lorem', 'ipsum']);
 *   $('#content').highlight('lorem ipsum');
 *   // search only for entire word 'lorem'
 *   $('#content').highlight('lorem', { wordsOnly: true });
 *   // don't ignore case during search of term 'lorem'
 *   $('#content').highlight('lorem', { caseSensitive: true });
 *   // wrap every occurrance of term 'ipsum' in content
 *   // with <em class='important'>
 *   $('#content').highlight('ipsum', { element: 'em', className: 'important' });
 *   // remove default highlight
 *   $('#content').unhighlight();
 *   // remove custom highlight
 *   $('#content').unhighlight({ element: 'em', className: 'important' });
 * Copyright (c) 2009 Bartek Szopka
 * Licensed under MIT license.

    highlight: function (node, re, nodeName, className) {
        if (node.nodeType === 3) {
            var match = node.data.match(re);
            if (match) {
                var highlight = document.createElement(nodeName || 'span');
                highlight.className = className || 'highlight';
                var wordNode = node.splitText(match.index);
                var wordClone = wordNode.cloneNode(true);
                wordNode.parentNode.replaceChild(highlight, wordNode);
                return 1; //skip added node in parent
        } else if ((node.nodeType === 1 && node.childNodes) && // only element nodes that have children
                !/(script|style)/i.test(node.tagName) && // ignore script and style nodes
                !(node.tagName === nodeName.toUpperCase() && node.className === className)) { // skip if already highlighted
            for (var i = 0; i < node.childNodes.length; i++) {
                i += jQuery.highlight(node.childNodes[i], re, nodeName, className);
        return 0;

jQuery.fn.unhighlight = function (options) {
    var settings = { className: 'highlight', element: 'span' };
    jQuery.extend(settings, options);

    return this.find(settings.element + "." + settings.className).each(function () {
        var parent = this.parentNode;
        parent.replaceChild(this.firstChild, this);

jQuery.fn.highlight = function (words, options) {
    var settings = { className: 'highlight', element: 'span', caseSensitive: false, wordsOnly: false };
    jQuery.extend(settings, options);

    if (words.constructor === String) {
        words = [words];
    words = jQuery.grep(words, function(word, i){
      return word != '';
    words = jQuery.map(words, function(word, i) {
      return word.replace(/[-[\]{}()*+?.,\\^$|#\s]/g, "\\$&");
    if (words.length == 0) { return this; };

    var flag = settings.caseSensitive ? "" : "i";
    var pattern = "(" + words.join("|") + ")";
    if (settings.wordsOnly) {
        pattern = "\\b" + pattern + "\\b";
    var re = new RegExp(pattern, flag);

    return this.each(function () {
        jQuery.highlight(this, re, settings.element, settings.className);

function hiliter(word, element) {
    var rgxp = new RegExp(word, 'g');
    var repl = '<span class="myClass">' + word + '</span>';
    element.innerHTML = element.innerHTML.replace(rgxp, repl);

Why using a selfmade highlighting function is a bad idea

The reason why it's probably a bad idea to start building your own highlighting function from scratch is because you will certainly run into issues that others have already solved. Challenges:

  • You would need to remove text nodes with HTML elements to highlight your matches without destroying DOM events and triggering DOM regeneration over and over again (which would be the case with e.g. innerHTML)
  • If you want to remove highlighted elements you would have to remove HTML elements with their content and also have to combine the splitted text-nodes for further searches. This is necessary because every highlighter plugin searches inside text nodes for matches and if your keywords will be splitted into several text nodes they will not being found.
  • You would also need to build tests to make sure your plugin works in situations which you have not thought about. And I'm talking about cross-browser tests!

Sounds complicated? If you want some features like ignoring some elements from highlighting, diacritics mapping, synonyms mapping, search inside iframes, separated word search, etc. this becomes more and more complicated.

Use an existing plugin

When using an existing, well implemented plugin, you don't have to worry about above named things. The article 10 jQuery text highlighter plugins on Sitepoint compares popular highlighter plugins. This includes plugins of answers from this question.

Have a look at mark.js

mark.js is such a plugin that is written in pure JavaScript, but is also available as jQuery plugin. It was developed to offer more opportunities than the other plugins with options to:

  • search for keywords separately instead of the complete term
  • map diacritics (For example if "justo" should also match "justò")
  • ignore matches inside custom elements
  • use custom highlighting element
  • use custom highlighting class
  • map custom synonyms
  • search also inside iframes
  • receive not found terms


Alternatively you can see this fiddle.

Usage example:

// Highlight "keyword" in the specified context

// Highlight the custom regular expression in the specified context

It's free and developed open-source on GitHub (project reference).

Here's a variation that ignores and preserves case:

jQuery.fn.highlight = function (str, className) {
    var regex = new RegExp("\\b"+str+"\\b", "gi");

    return this.each(function () {
        this.innerHTML = this.innerHTML.replace(regex, function(matched) {return "<span class=\"" + className + "\">" + matched + "</span>";});

You can use the following function to highlight any word in your text.

function color_word(text_id, word, color) {
    words = $('#' + text_id).text().split(' ');
    words = words.map(function(item) { return item == word ? "<span style='color: " + color + "'>" + word + '</span>' : item });
    new_words = words.join(' ');
    $('#' + text_id).html(new_words);

Simply target the element that contains the text, choosing the word to colorize and the color of choice.

Here is an example:

<div id='my_words'>
This is some text to show that it is possible to color a specific word inside a body of text. The idea is to convert the text into an array using the split function, then iterate over each word until the word of interest is identified. Once found, the word of interest can be colored by replacing that element with a span around the word. Finally, replacing the text with jQuery's html() function will produce the desired result.


color_word('my_words', 'possible', 'hotpink')

enter image description here

Azle also has a nice function for this. It uses classes so just assign a class name to any block of text you want to target.

az.style_word("target_class", target_instance, {
     "this_class" : "pink_word",
     "word" : "possible", // list any CSS styling after this line ...
     "color" : "hotpink", 
     "font-weight" : "bold"

You can use my highlight plugin jQuiteLight, that can also work with regular expressions.

To install using npm type:

npm install jquitelight --save

To install using bower type:

bower install jquitelight 


// for strings
$(".element").mark("query here");
// for RegExp
$(".element").mark(new RegExp(/query h[a-z]+/));

More advanced usage here


Uses .each(), .replace(), .html(). Tested with jQuery 1.11 and 3.2.

In the above example, reads the 'keyword' to be highlighted and appends span tag with the 'highlight' class. The text 'keyword' is highlighted for all selected classes in the .each().


   <label name="lblKeyword" id="lblKeyword" class="highlight">keyword</label>
   <p class="filename">keyword</p>
   <p class="content">keyword</p>
   <p class="system"><i>keyword</i></p>


$(document).ready(function() {
   var keyWord = $("#lblKeyword").text(); 
   var replaceD = "<span class='highlight'>" + keyWord + "</span>";
   $(".system, .filename, .content").each(function() {
      var text = $(this).text();
      text = text.replace(keyWord, replaceD);


.highlight {
    background-color: yellow;

You need to get the content of the p tag and replace all the dolors in it with the highlighted version.

You don't even need to have jQuery for this. :-)

I wrote a very simple function that uses jQuery to iterate the elements wrapping each keyword with a .highlight class.

function highlight_words(word, element) {
    if(word) {
        var textNodes;
        word = word.replace(/\W/g, '');
        var str = word.split(" ");
        $(str).each(function() {
            var term = this;
            var textNodes = $(element).contents().filter(function() { return this.nodeType === 3 });
            textNodes.each(function() {
              var content = $(this).text();
              var regex = new RegExp(term, "gi");
              content = content.replace(regex, '<span class="highlight">' + term + '</span>');

More info:


I have created a repository on similar concept that changes the colors of the texts whose colors are recognised by html5 (we don't have to use actual #rrggbb values and could just use the names as html5 standardised about 140 of them)

colors.js colors.js

$( document ).ready(function() {
	function hiliter(word, element) {
		var rgxp = new RegExp("\\b" + word + "\\b" , 'gi'); // g modifier for global and i for case insensitive 
		var repl = '<span class="myClass">' + word + '</span>';
		element.innerHTML = element.innerHTML.replace(rgxp, repl);

	hiliter('dolor', document.getElementById('dolor'));

<!DOCTYPE html>
		<script src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/3.1.0/jquery.min.js"></script>
		 <link href="main.css" type="text/css"  rel="stylesheet"/>
	<body id='dolor'>
<p >
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.
    Quisque bibendum sem ut lacus. Integer dolor ullamcorper libero.
    Aliquam rhoncus eros at augue. Suspendisse vitae mauris.
 <script type="text/javascript" src="main.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Is it possible to get this above example:

jQuery.fn.highlight = function (str, className)
    var regex = new RegExp(str, "g");

    return this.each(function ()
        this.innerHTML = this.innerHTML.replace(
            "<span class=\"" + className + "\">" + str + "</span>"

not to replace text inside html-tags like , this otherwise breakes the page.

$(function () {
    $("#txtSearch").keyup(function (event) {
        var txt = $("#txtSearch").val()
        if (txt.length > 3) {
            $("span.hilightable").each(function (i, v) {
                v.innerHTML = v.innerText.replace(txt, "<hilight>" + txt + "</hilight>");


Jfiddle here