We present an approach for the text-to-image retrieval problem based on textual content present in images. Given the recent developments in understanding text in images, an appealing approach to address this problem is to localize and recognize the text, and then query the database, as in a text retrieval problem. We show that such an approach, despite being based on state-of-the-art methods, is insufficient, and propose a method, where we do not rely on an exact localization and recognition pipeline. We take a query-driven search approach, where we find approximate locations of characters in the text query, and then impose spatial constraints to generate a ranked list of images in the database. The retrieval performance is evaluated on public scene text datasets as well as three large datasets, namely IIIT scene text retrieval, Sports-10K and TV series-1M, we introduce. © 2013 IEEE.