String Distance Functions

Jul 20, 2018

Starting in version 1.14, Drill supports string distance functions. Typically, you use string distance functions in the WHERE clause of a query to measure the difference between two strings. For example, if you want to match a street address, but do not know how to spell a street name, you could issue a query on the data source with the street addresses:

   SELECT street_address
   FROM address-data
   WHERE cosine_distance( `street_address`, “1234 North Quail Ln” ) <  0.5; 

The search would return addresses from rows with street addresses similar to 1234 North Quail Ln, such as:

   1234 N. Quail Lane
   1234 N Quaile Lan  

Drill supports the following string distance functions:

Function Descriptions

The following sections describe each of the string distance functions that Drill supports.


Calculates the cosine distance between two strings.


Calculates the cosine distance between two strings. A matching algorithm that is similar to the searching algorithms implemented in editors such as Sublime Text, TextMate, Atom, and others. One point is given for every matched character. Subsequent matches yield two bonus points. A higher score indicates a higher similarity.

hamming_distance (string1,string2)

The hamming distance between two strings of equal length is the number of positions at which the corresponding symbols are different. For further explanation about the Hamming Distance, refer to

jaccard_distance (string1,string2)

Measures the Jaccard distance of two sets of character sequence. Jaccard distance is the dissimilarity between two sets. It is the complementary of Jaccard similarity.

jaro_distance (string1,string2)

A similarity algorithm indicating the percentage of matched characters between two character sequences. The Jaro measure is the weighted sum of percentage of matched characters from each file and transposed characters. Winkler increased this measure for matching initial characters. This implementation is based on the Jaro Winkler similarity algorithm.

levenshtein_distance (string1,string2)

An algorithm for measuring the difference between two character sequences. This is the number of changes needed to change one sequence into another, where each change is a single character modification (deletion, insertion, or substitution).


Returns the length of the longest sub-sequence that two strings have in common. Two strings that are entirely different, return a value of 0, and two strings that return a value of the commonly shared length implies that the strings are completely the same in value and position. This implementation is based on the Longest Commons Substring algorithm.

Note: Generally this algorithm is fairly inefficient, as for length m, n of the input CharSequence's left and right respectively, the runtime of the algorithm is O(m*n).