FAQ 6.17 How do I efficiently match many regular expressions at once?

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6.17: How do I efficiently match many regular expressions at once?

    (contributed by brian d foy)

    If you have Perl 5.10 or later, this is almost trivial. You just smart
    match against an array of regular expression objects:

            my @patterns = ( qr/Fr.d/, qr/B.rn.y/, qr/W.lm./ );
            if( $string ~~ @patterns ) {

    The smart match stops when it finds a match, so it doesn't have to try
    every expression.

    Earlier than Perl 5.10, you have a bit of work to do. You want to avoid
    compiling a regular expression every time you want to match it. In this
    example, perl must recompile the regular expression for every iteration
    of the "foreach" loop since it has no way to know what $pattern will be:

            my @patterns = qw( foo bar baz );

            LINE: while( <DATA> ) {
                    foreach $pattern ( @patterns ) {
                            if( /\b$pattern\b/i ) {
                                    next LINE;

    The "qr//" operator showed up in perl 5.005. It compiles a regular
    expression, but doesn't apply it. When you use the pre-compiled version
    of the regex, perl does less work. In this example, I inserted a "map"
    to turn each pattern into its pre-compiled form. The rest of the script
    is the same, but faster:

            my @patterns = map { qr/\b$_\b/i } qw( foo bar baz );

            LINE: while( <> ) {
                    foreach $pattern ( @patterns ) {
                            if( /$pattern/ )
                                    next LINE;

    In some cases, you may be able to make several patterns into a single
    regular expression. Beware of situations that require backtracking

            my $regex = join '|', qw( foo bar baz );

            LINE: while( <> ) {
                    print if /\b(?:$regex)\b/i;

    For more details on regular expression efficiency, see *Mastering
    Regular Expressions* by Jeffrey Freidl. He explains how regular
    expressions engine work and why some patterns are surprisingly
    inefficient. Once you understand how perl applies regular expressions,
    you can tune them for individual situations.


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