How do I breaks a text or sentence into words?

At first it might look simple. We can just split the text using the String.split(), the word is splitted using space. But what if a word ends with questions marks (?) or exclamation marks (!) instead? There might be some other rules that we also need to care.

Using the java.text.BreakIterator makes it much simpler. The class’s getWordInstance() factory method creates a BreakIterator instance for words break. Instantiating a BreakIterator and passing a locale information makes the iterator to breaks the text or sentence according the rule of the locale. This is really helpful when we are working with a complex language such as Japanese or Chinese.

Let us see an example of using the BreakIterator below.

package org.kodejava.example.text;

import java.text.BreakIterator;
import java.util.Locale;

public class BreakIteratorExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        String data = "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.";
        String search = "dog";

        // Gets an instance of BreakIterator for word break for the
        // given locale. We can instantiate a BreakIterator without
        // specifying the locale. The locale is important when we
        // are working with languages like Japanese or Chinese where
        // the breaks standard may be different compared to English.
        BreakIterator bi = BreakIterator.getWordInstance(Locale.US);

        // Set the text string to be scanned.

        // Iterates the boundary / breaks
        System.out.println("Iterates each word: ");
        int count = 0;
        int lastIndex = bi.first();
        while (lastIndex != BreakIterator.DONE) {
            int firstIndex = lastIndex;
            lastIndex =;

            if (lastIndex != BreakIterator.DONE
                    && Character.isLetterOrDigit(
                    data.charAt(firstIndex))) {
                String word = data.substring(firstIndex, lastIndex);
                System.out.println("'" + word + "' found at (" +
                        firstIndex + ", " + lastIndex + ")");

                // Counts how many times the word dog occurs.
                if (word.equalsIgnoreCase(search)) {

        System.out.println("Number of word '" + search +
                "' found = " + count);

Here are the program output:

Iterates each word: 
'The' found at (0, 3)
'quick' found at (4, 9)
'brown' found at (10, 15)
'fox' found at (16, 19)
'jumps' found at (20, 25)
'over' found at (26, 30)
'the' found at (31, 34)
'lazy' found at (35, 39)
'dog' found at (40, 43)

Number of word 'dog' found = 1

Wayan Saryada

Programmer, runner, recreational diver, currently living in the island of Bali, Indonesia. Mostly programming in Java, creating web based application with Spring Framework, Hibernate / JPA.

Leave a Reply