RegEx whitelist of words in any order

I came across the need to limit the words in a string to a certain list of words. This turns out to be a little more complicated than blacklisting a list of words, such as profanity, from a string.


  • Assume the whitelist is foo bar baz.
  • Match whitelisted words in any order
    Pass: foo bar baz
    Pass: bar foo baz
  • Do not match on any word not in the whitelist
    Fail: foo boom baz
  • Do not match on extra inner, trailing or leading whitespace


regex = %r{\A(?! )(?:(?:\A| )(?:foo|bar|baz)){1,3}\z}
const regex = /^(?! )(?:(?:^| )(?:foo|bar|baz)){1,3}$/

The RegEx above does allow duplicate approved words up to the quantified limit. So 'foo bar bar' will pass, but 'foo bar bar bar' will not.

While I like to keep things succinct, this duplicate word problem can easily be avoided using other means.

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