Extracting the Column Letter in Excel

There can be times when identifying the current or a specific column letter reference is useful. Check out the comments for a shorter formula – thanks Batuque.

  • to document the file – you can refer to the column letter directly
  • for instruction purposes – “View column X” is better than “View column 24”
  • to create dynamic references using the INDIRECT function

The formula that extracts the column letter for cell A1 is


Simply replace the two references to A1 to find any other column letter.

The MID function extracts characters from the middle of a cell. In this case it extracts from the second character as the first character is always the $ sign.

The CELL function “address” returns the fixed (absolute) address reference of a cell eg $A$1. The column letter always starts at the second character position.

The SEARCH function finds the character position of a text string. In this case it finds the second $ sign. The ,2 at the end of the SEARCH function instructs Excel to find the second $ sign within the CELL function address result.

2 is subtracted from the SEARCH function result to determine how many characters make up the column letter(s). It will be either 1,2 or 3 characters for the column reference.



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2 thoughts on “Extracting the Column Letter in Excel

  1. Hi Neil

    Nice article! I was looking at your formula and at first I thought it could be improved with something like this:


    Then I realised this is only good for cells from A-Z. So I tried to alter your formula and come up with a slight modification;


    It is the 4 in the formula that is key. It provides for the relative reference for the third part of the address formula. Then we are just replacing 1 as in (A1 or AAA1) with nothing to be left with the column number.

    Anyways worth a look perhaps.

    Take care