I have a text input in which I am accepting wildcards. Namely the * which matches any number of characters and the ? which matches exactly 1 character.

Is there a name for this wildcard system, which I could use as shorthand?

C:\Temp>dir * /b

C:\Temp>dir b* /b

C:\Temp>dir b? /b
File Not Found

C:\Temp>dir ba? /b

  • This might should be asked elsewhere. If someone can direct me, I'd love to ask in the right area... Sep 7, 2018 at 15:02
  • Is your application a command-line program (your example has that appearance, but it might just be the way you formatted your example..)? If not, what kind of application is it? In what situation would the user possibly want to use these wildcards? Sep 7, 2018 at 15:18
  • @maxathousand It's actually an API where a user passes a string across an interface, again... possibly not the right place to ask. I'm trying to give a common term in the caller could easily understand the wildcards. Sep 7, 2018 at 15:26
  • I think it's fitting here: developers are users too! These are the only two wildcards you support, correct? I'm a developer as well, but I'm not sure that there's a specific term I've come across that I'd be able to immediately understand "Oh, they mean * and ?." Do/will you have accompanying documentation for this API? It might be easy enough to just mention it in the documentation for the methods that support it, for example "Call this method, passing the desired query. Note: * will match any number of non-whitespace characters, while ? will match exactly one." Might this work? Sep 7, 2018 at 15:34
  • @maxathousand Yeah each function in the API has a one line comment. I was hoping for something more intuitively obvious... but perhaps being explicit is our best bet here. Sep 7, 2018 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


I actually think the word "wildcard" is exactly the one you're looking for. It clearly indicates that it's not a regular expression/regex or glob type matching system that is more sophisticated.

In short, you could say:

This API treats * and ? as wildcard characters.

And elsewhere explain how they behave more specifically.

  • Agreed, and put a little 'info' icon on the page so that anyone who has never heard of wildcards can learn about them.
    – PhillipW
    Sep 9, 2018 at 13:39

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