The Excel COLUMN function is a Lookup & Reference formula that returns the column number of a reference. In this guide, we’re going to show you how to use the Excel COLUMN function and also go over some tips and error handling methods.

Supported versions

  • All Excel versions





Optional. A valid reference.


The COLUMN function returns the column number where the formula is entered, if no arguments is entered.


If a valid cell reference is entered as an argument, the return value will be the number of the reference column.


If you enter a range reference, you will get the number of the top column. When dynamic arrays are introduced, you will get the numbers of all columns in the range reference.


Generating number series

A common way of using the Excel COLUMN function is finding the column number of a reference. Using the function in multiple adjacent columns, you can get a series of numbers. In our example, we placed the COLUMN function in cell in column 3 (column C) and subtracted 2 from the column number. This gives us 1 for the column 3. If we copy same formula to the column I, we get a series of numbers from 1 to 7.


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  • Use the COLUMNS function if you need to count the number of columns in a reference.
  • To get the row number of a reference, use the ROW function.