Elasticsearch Elasticsearch explain

By Opster Team

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

| 2 min read


The Elasticsearch Explain API is a valuable tool for understanding and debugging the relevance of search results. It provides detailed information about how the scoring of each document in the search results is calculated, which can be helpful in fine-tuning your search queries and improving the overall search experience. In this article, we will dive into the Elasticsearch Explain API, its use cases, and how to effectively leverage it for better search performance.

Understanding the Explain API

The Explain API is designed to provide insights into the scoring process of Elasticsearch, which is based on the Lucene library. It breaks down the score calculation for a specific document and query, allowing you to see the contribution of each part of the query to the final score. This can be particularly useful when you are trying to optimize your search queries or troubleshoot unexpected search results.

Using the Explain API

To use the Explain API, you need to send a GET request to the following endpoint:

GET /<index>/_explain/<document_id>

Replace <index> with the name of the index you want to query, and <document_id> with the ID of the document you want to explain. The request body should contain the query you want to analyze.

Here’s an example of using the Explain API:

GET /my_index/_explain/1
  "query": {
    "match": {
      "title": "elasticsearch"

This request will return an explanation of how the score for the document with ID 1 in the `my_index` index was calculated based on the provided query.

Interpreting the Explain API Response

The response from the Explain API contains several important fields:

  • `_index`: The name of the index.
  • `_type`: The document type (deprecated in Elasticsearch 7.x).
  • `_id`: The document ID.
  • `matched`: A boolean value indicating whether the document matched the query.
  • `explanation`: A detailed explanation of the score calculation.

The `explanation` field contains a tree-like structure that breaks down the score calculation into its components. Each node in the tree represents a part of the query and its contribution to the final score. The nodes have the following fields:

  • `value`: The score contribution of this node.
  • `description`: A textual description of the node.
  • `details`: An array of child nodes, representing the sub-components of this part of the query.

Analyzing the response can help you identify which parts of your query are contributing the most to the score, and which parts might need optimization.

Optimizing Queries Based on Explain API Insights

Once you have a better understanding of how Elasticsearch calculates the score for your documents, you can use this information to optimize your queries. Here are some tips for improving your search performance based on the insights from the Explain API:

  1. Use the appropriate query types: Different query types have different scoring mechanisms. Make sure you are using the most suitable query type for your use case. For example, use `match` queries for full-text search and `term` queries for exact value matching.
  2. Boost important fields: If certain fields are more important than others in your search results, consider using the `boost` parameter to give them more weight in the scoring calculation.
  3. Use function score queries: Function score queries allow you to modify the score of documents based on various factors, such as recency or popularity. Use these queries to fine-tune the relevance of your search results.
  4. Analyze query performance: Use the Elasticsearch Profile API to analyze the performance of your queries and identify potential bottlenecks or areas for optimization.


The Elasticsearch Explain API is a powerful tool for understanding the inner workings of the scoring process and optimizing your search queries. By leveraging the insights provided by the Explain API, you can fine-tune your search experience and ensure that your users receive the most relevant results.

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