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Limit the Number of Returned Results

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  • Overview
  • Specify a Limit
  • Combining Skip and Limit

In this guide, you can learn how to limit the number of results returned from read operations with the MongoDB Java driver.

Use limit() to cap the number of documents that a read operation returns. This instance method designates the maximum number of documents that a read operation can return. If there are not enough documents to reach the specified limit, it can return a smaller number. If you use limit() with the skip() instance method, the skip applies first and the limit only applies to the documents left over after the skip. For more information on the skip() method, see our guide on Skipping Returned Documents.

The following examples demonstrate, respectively, how to insert data into a collection, how to use limit() to restrict the number of returned documents, and how to combine limit() with skip() to further narrow the results returned from a query.

The following operation inserts documents representing books into a collection:

new Document().append("_id", 1)
.append("title", "The Brothers Karamazov").append("length", 824)
.append("author", "Dostoyevsky"),
new Document().append("_id", 2)
.append("title", "Les Misérables").append("length", 1462).append("author", "Hugo"),
new Document().append("_id", 3)
.append("title", "Atlas Shrugged").append("length", 1088).append("author", "Rand"),
new Document().append("_id", 4)
.append("title", "Infinite Jest").append("length", 1104).append("author", "Wallace"),
new Document().append("_id", 5)
.append("title", "Cryptonomicon").append("length", 918).append("author", "Stephenson"),
new Document().append("_id", 6)
.append("title", "A Dance with Dragons").append("length", 1104)
.append("author", "Martin")

The next example queries the collection to return the top three longest books. It first matches all the documents with the query, then sorts on the length field to return books with longer lengths before books with shorter lengths. Lastly, it limits the return value to 3 documents:

import com.mongodb.client.*;
import org.bson.Document;
import static com.mongodb.client.model.Sorts.descending;
// ...
// define a cursor that will return the first 3 sorted items
MongoCursor<Document> cursor = collection.find()
// print out items
try {
while (cursor.hasNext()) {
// close the cursor
finally {

The preceding code example prints out the following three documents, sorted by length:

Document{{_id=2, title=Les Misérables, author=Hugo, length=1462}}
Document{{_id=6, title=A Dance with Dragons, author=Martin, length=1104}}
Document{{_id=4, title=Infinite Jest, author=Wallace, length=1104}}


The order in which you call limit() and sort() does not matter because the driver reorders the calls to apply the sort first and the limit after it. The following two calls are equivalent:


To see the next three longest books, append the skip() method to your find() call as shown in the following code example:

MongoCursor<Document> cursor = collection.find()

This operation returns the documents that describe the fourth through sixth longest books:

Document{{_id=3, title=Atlas Shrugged, author=Rand, length=1088}}
Document{{_id=5, title=Cryptonomicon, author=Stephenson, length=918}}
Document{{_id=1, title=The Brothers Karamazov, author=Dostoyevsky, length=824}}

You can combine skip() and limit() in this way to implement paging for your collection, returning only small subsets of the collection at one time.


In order to ensure stable sorts across multiple queries, you must sort using a unique key (such as _id). Otherwise, a call to skip() and limit() may produce unpredictable results when combined with sort().

For example, consider the following data:

{ type: "computer", data: "1", serial_no: 235235 }
{ type: "computer", data: "2", serial_no: 235237 }
{ type: "computer", data: "3", serial_no: 235239 }
{ type: "computer", data: "4", serial_no: 235241 }

If you sorted by type alone, sort() does not guarantee the same order upon return. Appending skip() and limit() to the sort() could return different documents for different queries. In this case, sorting by data or serial_no would guarantee a stable sort, as both are unique keys.

For more information about the methods and classes mentioned in this guide, see the following API Documentation:

←  Skip Returned ResultsSpecify Which Fields to Return →