How to highlight text using javascript

Can someone help me with a javascript function that can highlight text on a web page. And the requirement is to - highlight only once, not like highlight all occurrences of the text as we do in case of search.

You can use the jquery highlight effect.

But if you are interested in raw javascript code, take a look at what I got Simply copy paste into an HTML, open the file and click "highlight" - this should highlight the word "fox". Performance wise I think this would do for small text and a single repetition (like you specified)

function highlight(text) {
  var inputText = document.getElementById("inputText");
  var innerHTML = inputText.innerHTML;
  var index = innerHTML.indexOf(text);
  if (index >= 0) { 
   innerHTML = innerHTML.substring(0,index) + "<span class='highlight'>" + innerHTML.substring(index,index+text.length) + "</span>" + innerHTML.substring(index + text.length);
   inputText.innerHTML = innerHTML;
.highlight {
  background-color: yellow;
<button onclick="highlight('fox')">Highlight</button>

<div id="inputText">
  The fox went over the fence


Using replace

I see this answer gained some popularity, I thought I might add on it. You can also easily use replace

"the fox jumped over the fence".replace(/fox/,"<span>fox</span>");

Or for multiple occurrences (not relevant for the question, but was asked in comments) you simply add global on the replace regular expression.

"the fox jumped over the other fox".replace(/fox/g,"<span>fox</span>");

Hope this helps to the intrigued commenters.

Replacing the HTML to the entire web-page

to replace the HTML for an entire web-page, you should refer to innerHTML of the document's body.


The solutions offered here are quite bad.

  1. You can't use regex, because that way, you search/highlight in the html tags.
  2. You can't use regex, because it doesn't work properly with UTF* (anything with non-latin/English characters).
  3. You can't just do an innerHTML.replace, because this doesn't work when the characters have a special HTML notation, e.g. &amp; for &, &lt; for <, &gt; for >, &auml; for ä, &ouml; for ö &uuml; for ü &szlig; for ß, etc.

What you need to do:

Loop through the HTML document, find all text nodes, get the textContent, get the position of the highlight-text with indexOf (with an optional toLowerCase if it should be case-insensitive), append everything before indexof as textNode, append the matched Text with a highlight span, and repeat for the rest of the textnode (the highlight string might occur multiple times in the textContent string).

Here is the code for this:

var InstantSearch = {

    "highlight": function (container, highlightText)
        var internalHighlighter = function (options)

            var id = {
                container: "container",
                tokens: "tokens",
                all: "all",
                token: "token",
                className: "className",
                sensitiveSearch: "sensitiveSearch"
            tokens = options[id.tokens],
            allClassName = options[id.all][id.className],
            allSensitiveSearch = options[id.all][id.sensitiveSearch];

            function checkAndReplace(node, tokenArr, classNameAll, sensitiveSearchAll)
                var nodeVal = node.nodeValue, parentNode = node.parentNode,
                    i, j, curToken, myToken, myClassName, mySensitiveSearch,
                    finalClassName, finalSensitiveSearch,
                    foundIndex, begin, matched, end,
                    textNode, span, isFirst;

                for (i = 0, j = tokenArr.length; i < j; i++)
                    curToken = tokenArr[i];
                    myToken = curToken[id.token];
                    myClassName = curToken[id.className];
                    mySensitiveSearch = curToken[id.sensitiveSearch];

                    finalClassName = (classNameAll ? myClassName + " " + classNameAll : myClassName);

                    finalSensitiveSearch = (typeof sensitiveSearchAll !== "undefined" ? sensitiveSearchAll : mySensitiveSearch);

                    isFirst = true;
                    while (true)
                        if (finalSensitiveSearch)
                            foundIndex = nodeVal.indexOf(myToken);
                            foundIndex = nodeVal.toLowerCase().indexOf(myToken.toLowerCase());

                        if (foundIndex < 0)
                            if (isFirst)

                            if (nodeVal)
                                textNode = document.createTextNode(nodeVal);
                                parentNode.insertBefore(textNode, node);
                            } // End if (nodeVal)

                        } // End if (foundIndex < 0)

                        isFirst = false;

                        begin = nodeVal.substring(0, foundIndex);
                        matched = nodeVal.substr(foundIndex, myToken.length);

                        if (begin)
                            textNode = document.createTextNode(begin);
                            parentNode.insertBefore(textNode, node);
                        } // End if (begin)

                        span = document.createElement("span");
                        span.className += finalClassName;
                        parentNode.insertBefore(span, node);

                        nodeVal = nodeVal.substring(foundIndex + myToken.length);
                    } // Whend

                } // Next i 
            }; // End Function checkAndReplace 

            function iterator(p)
                if (p === null) return;

                var children =, i, cur;

                if (children.length)
                    for (i = 0; i < children.length; i++)
                        cur = children[i];
                        if (cur.nodeType === 3)
                            checkAndReplace(cur, tokens, allClassName, allSensitiveSearch);
                        else if (cur.nodeType === 1)
            }; // End Function iterator

        } // End Function highlighter

                container: container
                , all:
                        className: "highlighter"
                , tokens: [
                        token: highlightText
                        , className: "highlight"
                        , sensitiveSearch: false
        ); // End Call internalHighlighter 

    } // End Function highlight


Then you can use it like this:

function TestTextHighlighting(highlightText)
    var container = document.getElementById("testDocument");
    InstantSearch.highlight(container, highlightText);

Here's an example HTML document

<!DOCTYPE html>
        <title>Example of Text Highlight</title>
        <style type="text/css" media="screen">
            .highlight{ background: #D3E18A;}
            .light{ background-color: yellow;}
        <div id="testDocument">
            This is a test
            <span> This is another test</span>

By the way, if you search in a database with LIKE,
e.g. WHERE textField LIKE CONCAT('%', @query, '%') [which you shouldn't do, you should use fulltext-search or Lucene], then you can escape every character with \ and add an SQL-escape-statement, that whay you'll find special characters that are LIKE-expressions.


WHERE textField LIKE CONCAT('%', @query, '%') ESCAPE '\'

and the value of @query is not '%completed%' but '%\c\o\m\p\l\e\t\e\d%'

(tested, works with SQL-Server and PostgreSQL, and every other RDBMS system that supports ESCAPE)

A revised typescript-version:

namespace SearchTools 

    export interface IToken
        token: string;
        className: string;
        sensitiveSearch: boolean;

    export class InstantSearch 

        protected m_container: Node;
        protected m_defaultClassName: string;
        protected m_defaultCaseSensitivity: boolean;
        protected m_highlightTokens: IToken[];

        constructor(container: Node, tokens: IToken[], defaultClassName?: string, defaultCaseSensitivity?: boolean)
            this.iterator = this.iterator.bind(this);
            this.checkAndReplace = this.checkAndReplace.bind(this);
            this.highlight = this.highlight.bind(this);
            this.highlightNode = this.highlightNode.bind(this);    

            this.m_container = container;
            this.m_defaultClassName = defaultClassName || "highlight";
            this.m_defaultCaseSensitivity = defaultCaseSensitivity || false;
            this.m_highlightTokens = tokens || [{
                token: "test",
                className: this.m_defaultClassName,
                sensitiveSearch: this.m_defaultCaseSensitivity

        protected checkAndReplace(node: Node)
            let nodeVal: string = node.nodeValue;
            let parentNode: Node = node.parentNode;
            let textNode: Text = null;

            for (let i = 0, j = this.m_highlightTokens.length; i < j; i++)
                let curToken: IToken = this.m_highlightTokens[i];
                let textToHighlight: string = curToken.token;
                let highlightClassName: string = curToken.className || this.m_defaultClassName;
                let caseSensitive: boolean = curToken.sensitiveSearch || this.m_defaultCaseSensitivity;

                let isFirst: boolean = true;
                while (true)
                    let foundIndex: number = caseSensitive ?
                        : nodeVal.toLowerCase().indexOf(textToHighlight.toLowerCase());

                    if (foundIndex < 0)
                        if (isFirst)

                        if (nodeVal)
                            textNode = document.createTextNode(nodeVal);
                            parentNode.insertBefore(textNode, node);
                        } // End if (nodeVal)

                    } // End if (foundIndex < 0)

                    isFirst = false;

                    let begin: string = nodeVal.substring(0, foundIndex);
                    let matched: string = nodeVal.substr(foundIndex, textToHighlight.length);

                    if (begin)
                        textNode = document.createTextNode(begin);
                        parentNode.insertBefore(textNode, node);
                    } // End if (begin)

                    let span: HTMLSpanElement = document.createElement("span");

                    if (!span.classList.contains(highlightClassName))

                    parentNode.insertBefore(span, node);

                    nodeVal = nodeVal.substring(foundIndex + textToHighlight.length);
                } // Whend

            } // Next i 

        } // End Sub checkAndReplace 

        protected iterator(p: Node)
            if (p == null)

            let children: Node[] =;

            if (children.length)
                for (let i = 0; i < children.length; i++)
                    let cur: Node = children[i];

                    if (cur.nodeType === Node.TEXT_NODE) 
                    else if (cur.nodeType === Node.ELEMENT_NODE) 
                } // Next i 

            } // End if (children.length) 

        } // End Sub iterator

        public highlightNode(n:Node)
        } // End Sub highlight 

        public highlight()
        } // End Sub highlight 

    } // End Class InstantSearch 

} // End Namespace SearchTools 


let searchText = document.getElementById("txtSearchText");
let searchContainer = document.body; // document.getElementById("someTable");
let highlighter = new SearchTools.InstantSearch(searchContainer, [
        token: "this is the text to highlight" // searchText.value,
        className: "highlight", // this is the individual highlight class
        sensitiveSearch: false

// highlighter.highlight(); // this would highlight in the entire table
// foreach tr - for each td2 
highlighter.highlightNode(td2); // this highlights in the second column of table

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.

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).

function stylizeHighlightedString() {

    var text = window.getSelection();

    // For diagnostics
    var start = text.anchorOffset;
    var end = text.focusOffset - text.anchorOffset;

    range = window.getSelection().getRangeAt(0);

    var selectionContents = range.extractContents();
    var span = document.createElement("span");

    span.appendChild(selectionContents); = "yellow"; = "black";


Here's my regexp pure JavaScript solution:

function highlight(text) {
    document.body.innerHTML = document.body.innerHTML.replace(
        new RegExp(text + '(?!([^<]+)?<)', 'gi'),
        '<b style="background-color:#ff0;font-size:100%">$&</b>'

I have the same problem, a bunch of text comes in through a xmlhttp request. This text is html formatted. I need to highlight every occurrence.

str='<img src="brown fox.jpg" title="The brown fox" />'
    +'<p>some text containing fox.</p>'

The problem is that I don't need to highlight text in tags. For example I need to highlight fox:

Now I can replace it with:

var word="fox";
    word.replace(/([{}()[\]\\.?*+^$|=!:~-])/g, "\\$1")
        + "\\b)";
var r = new RegExp(word,"igm");
str.replace(r,"<span class='hl'>$1</span>")

To answer your question: you can leave out the g in regexp options and only first occurrence will be replaced but this is still the one in the img src property and destroys the image tag:

<img src="brown <span class='hl'>fox</span>.jpg" title="The brown <span 
class='hl'>fox</span> />

This is the way I solved it but was wondering if there is a better way, something I've missed in regular expressions:

str='<img src="brown fox.jpg" title="The brown fox" />'
    +'<p>some text containing fox.</p>'
var word="fox";
    word.replace(/([{}()[\]\\.?*+^$|=!:~-])/g, "\\$1")
    + "\\b)";
var r = new RegExp(word,"igm");
    return a.replace(r,"<span class='hl'>$1</span>");

Simple TypeScript example

NOTE: While I agree with @Stefan in many things, I only needed a simple match highlighting:

module myApp.Search {
    'use strict';

    export class Utils {
        private static regexFlags = 'gi';
        private static wrapper = 'mark';

        private static wrap(match: string): string {
            return '<' + Utils.wrapper + '>' + match + '</' + Utils.wrapper + '>';

        static highlightSearchTerm(term: string, searchResult: string): string {
            let regex = new RegExp(term, Utils.regexFlags);

            return searchResult.replace(regex, match => Utils.wrap(match));

And then constructing the actual result:

module myApp.Search {
    'use strict';

    export class SearchResult {
        id: string;
        title: string;

        constructor(result, term?: string) {
            this.title = term ? Utils.highlightSearchTerm(term, result.title) : result.title;

Since HTML5 you can use the <mark></mark> tags to highlight text. You can use javascript to wrap some text/keyword between these tags. Here is a little example of how to mark and unmark text.


None of the other solutions really fit my needs, and although Stefan Steiger's solution worked as I expected I found it a bit too verbose.

Following is my attempt:

 * Highlight keywords inside a DOM element
 * @param {string} elem Element to search for keywords in
 * @param {string[]} keywords Keywords to highlight
 * @param {boolean} caseSensitive Differenciate between capital and lowercase letters
 * @param {string} cls Class to apply to the highlighted keyword
function highlight(elem, keywords, caseSensitive = false, cls = 'highlight') {
  const flags = caseSensitive ? 'gi' : 'g';
  // Sort longer matches first to avoid
  // highlighting keywords within keywords.
  keywords.sort((a, b) => b.length - a.length);
  Array.from(elem.childNodes).forEach(child => {
    const keywordRegex = RegExp(keywords.join('|'), flags);
    if (child.nodeType !== 3) { // not a text node
      highlight(child, keywords, caseSensitive, cls);
    } else if (keywordRegex.test(child.textContent)) {
      const frag = document.createDocumentFragment();
      let lastIdx = 0;
      child.textContent.replace(keywordRegex, (match, idx) => {
        const part = document.createTextNode(child.textContent.slice(lastIdx, idx));
        const highlighted = document.createElement('span');
        highlighted.textContent = match;
        lastIdx = idx + match.length;
      const end = document.createTextNode(child.textContent.slice(lastIdx));
      child.parentNode.replaceChild(frag, child);

// Highlight all keywords found in the page
highlight(document.body, ['lorem', 'amet', 'autem']);
.highlight {
  background: lightpink;
<p>Hello world lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Est vel accusantium totam, ipsum delectus et dignissimos mollitia!</p>
  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Numquam, corporis.
  <small>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Accusantium autem voluptas perferendis dolores ducimus velit error voluptatem, qui rerum modi?</small>

I would also recommend using something like escape-string-regexp if your keywords can have special characters that would need to be escaped in regexes:

const keywordRegex = RegExp('|')), flags);

I was wondering that too, you could try what I learned on this post.

I used:

function highlightSelection() {
			var userSelection = window.getSelection();
			for(var i = 0; i < userSelection.rangeCount; i++) {
			function highlightRange(range) {
			    var newNode = document.createElement("span");
			       "background-color: yellow; display: inline;"
	<body contextmenu="mymenu">

		<menu type="context" id="mymenu">
			<menuitem label="Highlight Yellow" onclick="highlightSelection()" icon="/images/comment_icon.gif"></menuitem>
		<p>this is text, select and right click to high light me! if you can`t see the option, please use this<button onclick="highlightSelection()">button </button><p>

you could also try it here:


I found highlight plugin to be the best match, with it you can highlight part of the content:


Fast forward to 2019, Web API now has natively support for highlighting texts:

const selection = document.getSelection();
selection.setBaseAndExtent(anchorNode, anchorOffset, focusNode, focusOffset);

And you are good to go! anchorNode is the selection starting node, focusNode is the selection ending node. And, if they are text nodes, offset is the index of the starting and ending character in the respective nodes. Here is the documentation

They even have a live demo

Using the surroundContents() method on the Range type. Its only argument is an element which will wrap that Range.

function styleSelected() {
  bg = document.createElement("span"); = "yellow";

We if you also want it to be highlighted on page load, there is a new way.

just add #:~:text=Highlight%20These

try accessing this link