Finding Unique Rows Based on Two Columns

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 8, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel Excel in Microsoft 365 and 2021


Tom has, in Excel, a list of transactions that cover the past year. One column indicates a customer's last name and the next column is the customer's first name. Tom knows he can use the UNIQUE function to return unique rows based on the last name, but he needs the UNIQUE function to take into account both the first and last name. He wonders if there is any way to do this without using a helper column.

Actually, deriving unique values based on multiple columns is easy—all you need to do is to include the columns in the range that you want to use as your source. For instance, let's say that in Tom's case the last name is in column A and the first name in column B. You could, in this case, use the following:


This assumes that your data actually begins in row 2, with the first row being used for column headers, and goes all the way down through row 247. The UNIQUE function, in this case, returns two columns of data because you used two columns in your source parameter. If you don't want two columns returned, then you could modify the source just a bit:

=UNIQUE(A2:A247 & ", " & B2:B247)

This results in a single column being returned because the UNIQUE function uses a single source array that is only a single column wide—a column based on a concatenation of values in two columns.

Note that what is returned will include a comma and space between the last and first names. If you would prefer, you could change the parameter so that it placed the first name first:

=UNIQUE(B2:B247 & " " & A2:A247)

And, you could combine the UNIQUE function with the SORT function to put your list in sorted order. The easiest way to do this is to have the results returned in last name/first name order:

=SORT(UNIQUE(A2:A247 & ", " & B2:B247))

If you would like further examples of how you could return unique values, you may find this webpage helpful:

Finally, remember that this tip has dealt with just the ability to return unique values from an array. If you also need to pull other information from your original data range, then you'll need to do that using a separate formula, in addition to the UNIQUE-based formula.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (5675) applies to Microsoft Excel Excel in Microsoft 365 and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Determining the Number of Bookmarks Defined in a Document

If you develop a macro that needs to work with bookmarks defined in a document, it is inevitable that you will need a way ...

Discover More

Pulling Apart Cells

Separating text values in one cell into a group of other cells is a common need when dealing with text. Excel provides a ...

Discover More

Aligning Numbered Lists on the Period

When you convert a paragraph to a numbered list, Word adds a number at the start of the paragraph, as you would expect. ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Getting the Name of the Parent Workbook

If you need to insert into a cell the name of the workbook in which a worksheet is contained, you can use the CELL ...

Discover More

Using the IF Worksheet Function

Programmers know that a staple of any language is the ability to create conditional statements. Excel understands this, ...

Discover More

Using a Cell Value as a Worksheet Name in a Formula

Excel allows you to easily develop formulas that pull values from worksheets and workbooks other than the one in which ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven more than 9?

2022-10-18 18:19:02

R McNeil

I like that location better!

2022-10-14 11:01:44


I made a change. Hopefully it helps.


2022-10-10 16:35:33

R McNeil

I concur with Michael that the version info would be helpful at the beginning of the tip. I didn't see it at the bottom. Even after reading the comments, I had a hard time finding it. That may be to blame on the browser, but all the more reason to have the version info at the top.

I found the tip interesting, like many of your Word and Excel tips, but it took google-foo to figure out why I couldn't use it since I did not note the version info at the bottom of the tip. I wouldn't have bothered reading the tip if I knew up front that I couldn't use it. It was frustrating enough that I've taken the time to submit a comment if that makes any difference.

In any case, I'll use this as the opportunity to say - Thanks for all the good tips!!

2022-10-09 04:12:31

Michael (Micky) Avidan, "Microsoft®" MVP

Well, Allen,

It might be a good opportunity to make a small change regarding the version issue.

I'm sure that nobody will find it appropriate if the ver. will be mentioned before the content itselfץ

As a matter of fact - it will save a some users time and frustration.

Here is a suggested sample:
(see Figure 1 below)

Figure 1. 

2022-10-08 19:12:35


I do mention it. At the very end of the tip (as with all my tips) I mention that this one "applies to Microsoft Excel Excel in Microsoft 365 and 2021."


2022-10-08 16:35:46

R. A. Williams

You could mention that the UNIQUE function is only available in M$ 365.

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.