Table of documentation contents



The text2vec-transformers module allows you to use a pre-trained language transformer model as Weaviate vectorization module. Transformer models differ from the Contextionary as they allow you to plug in a pretrained NLP module specific to your use case. This means models like BERT, DilstBERT, RoBERTa, DilstilROBERTa, etc. can be used out-of-the box with Weaviate. Transformer models handle text as sequential data, which is a different learning method than the text2vec-contextionary.

To use transformers with weaviate the text2vec-transformers module needs to be enabled. The models are encapsulated in Docker containers. This allows for efficient scaling and resource planning. Neural-Network-based models run most efficiently on GPU-enabled serves, yet Weaviate is CPU-optimized. This separate-container microservice setup allows you to very easily host (and scale) the model independently on GPU-enabled hardware while keeping Weaviate on cheap CPU-only hardware.

To choose your specific model, you simply need to select the correct Docker container. There is a selection of pre-built Docker images available, but you can also build your own with a simple two-line Dockerfile.

How to use

You have three options to select your desired model:

  1. Use any of our pre-built transformers model containers. The models selected in this list have proven to work well with semantic search in the past. These model containers are pre-built by us, and packed in a container. (If you think we should support another model out-of-the-box please open an issue or pull request here).
  2. Use any model from Hugging Face Model Hub. Click here to learn how. The text2vec-transformers module supports any PyTorch or Tensorflow tranformer model.
  3. Use any private or local PyTorch or Tensorflow transformer model. Click here to learn how. If you have your own transformer model in a registery or on a local disk, you can use this with Weaviate.

Option 1: Use a pre-built transformer model container

Example docker-compose file

Note: you can also use the Weaviate configuration tool.

You can find an example Docker-compose file below, which will spin up Weaviate with the transformers module. In this example we have selected the sentence-transformers/msmarco-distilroberta-base-v2 which works great for asymmetric semantic search. See below for how to select an alternative model.

version: '3.4'
    image: semitechnologies/weaviate:1.7.2
    restart: on-failure:0
     - "8080:8080"
      DEFAULT_VECTORIZER_MODULE: text2vec-transformers
      ENABLE_MODULES: text2vec-transformers
      TRANSFORMERS_INFERENCE_API: http://t2v-transformers:8080
    image: sentence-transformers/msmarco-distilroberta-base-v2
      ENABLE_CUDA: 0 # set to 1 to enable

Note that running a Weaviate with a the text2vec-transformer module without GPU will be slow. Enable CUDA if you have a GPU available (ENABLE_CUDA=1).

Note: at the moment, text vectorization modules cannot be combined in a single setup. This means that you can either enable the text2vec-contextionary, the text2vec-transformers or no text vectorization module.

Alternative: configure your custom setup

Step 1: Enable the text2vec-transformers module

Make sure you set the ENABLE_MODULES=text2vec-transformers environment variable. Additionally make this module the default vectorizer, so you don’t have to specify it on each schema class: DEFAULT_VECTORIZER_MODULE=text2vec-transformers

Important: This setting is now a requirement, if you plan on using any module. So, when using the text2vec-contextionary module, you need to have ENABLE_MODULES=text2vec-contextionary set. All our configuration-generators / Helm charts will be updated as part of the Weaviate v1.2.0 support.

Step 2: Run your favorite model

Choose any of our pre-built transformers models (for building your own model container, see below) and spin it up (for example using docker run -itp "8000:8080" semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-msmarco-distilroberta-base-v2) . Use a CUDA-enabled machine for optimal performance.

Step 3: Tell Weaviate where to find the inference

Set the Weaviate environment variable TRANSFORMERS_INFERENCE_API to where your inference container is running, for example TRANSFORMERS_INFERENCE_API="http://localhost:8000"

You can now use Weaviate normally and all vectorization during import and search time will be done with the selected transformers model.

Pre-built images

You can download a selection of pre-built images directly from Dockerhub. We have chosen publically available models that in our opinion are well suited for semantic search.

The pre-built models include:

Model NameDescriptionImage Name
sentence-transformers/paraphrase-MiniLM-L6-v2 (English, 384d)New! Sentence-Transformer recommendation for bestaccuracy/speed trade-off. The lower dimensionality also reducesmemory requirements of larger datasets in Weaviate.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-paraphrase-MiniLM-L6-v2
sentence-transformers/paraphrase-multilingual-MiniLM-L12-v2 (Multilingual, 384d)New! Sentence-Transformer recommendation for bestaccuracy/speed trade-off for a multi-lingual model. The lowerdimensionality also reduces memory requirements of larger datasets inWeaviate.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-paraphrase-multilingual-MiniLM-L12-v2
sentence-transformers/paraphrase-mpnet-base-v2 (English, 768d)New! Currently the highest overall score (across all benchmarks) onsentence-transformers benchmarks.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-paraphrase-mpnet-base-v2
sentence-transformers/paraphrase-multilingual-mpnet-base-v2 (Multilingual, 768d)New! Currently the highest overall score for a multi-lingual model(across all benchmarks) on sentence-transformers benchmarks.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-paraphrase-multilingual-mpnet-base-v2
sentence-transformers/sentence-transformers/msmarco-distilbert-base-v3 (English, 768d)New! Successor to the widely popular msmarco v2 models. ForQuestion-Answer style queries (given a search query, find the rightpassages). Our recommendation to be used in combination with theqna-transformers (Answer extraction) module.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-msmarco-distilbert-base-v3
sentence-transformers/stsb-mpnet-base-v2 (English, 768d)New! Highest STSb scrore on sentence-transformers benchmarks.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-stsb-mpnet-base-v2
sentence-transformers/nli-mpnet-base-v2 (English, 768d)New! Highest Twitter Paraphrases scrore on sentence-transformersbenchmarks.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-nli-mpnet-base-v2
sentence-transformers/stsb-distilbert-base (English)Deprecated. Only use for compatibility, prefer newer model if possible.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-stsb-distilbert-base
sentence-transformers/quora-distilbert-base (English) semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-quora-distilbert-base
sentence-transformers/paraphrase-distilroberta-base-v1 (English)Deprecated. Only use for compatibility, prefer newer model if possible.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-paraphrase-distilroberta-base-v1
kiri-ai/distiluse-base-multilingual-cased-et (Multilingual) semitechnologies/transformers-inference:kiri-ai-distiluse-base-multilingual-cased-et
sentence-transformers/msmarco-distilroberta-base-v2 (English)Deprecated. Only use for compatibility, prefer newer model if possible.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-msmarco-distilroberta-base-v2
sentence-transformers/msmarco-distilbert-base-v2 (English) semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-msmarco-distilbert-base-v2
sentence-transformers/stsb-xlm-r-multilingual (Multilingual)Deprecated. Only use for compatibility, prefer newer model if possible.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-stsb-xlm-r-multilingual
sentence-transformers/paraphrase-xlm-r-multilingual-v1 (Multilingual)Deprecated. Only use for compatibility, prefer newer model if possible.semitechnologies/transformers-inference:sentence-transformers-paraphrase-xlm-r-multilingual-v1

The above image names always point to the latest version of the inference container including the model. You can also make that explicit by appending -latest to the image name. Additionally, you can pin the version to one of the existing git tags of this repository. E.g. to pin distilbert-base-uncased to version 1.0.0, you can use semitechnologies/transformers-inference:distilbert-base-uncased-1.0.0.

Your favorite model is not included? Open an issue to include it or build a custom image as outlined below.

Option 2: Use any publically available Huggingface Model

You can build a docker image which supports any model from the Huggingface model hub with a two-line Dockerfile. In the following example, we are going to build a custom image for the distilroberta-base model.

Step 1: Create a Dockerfile

Create a new Dockerfile. We will name it distilroberta.Dockerfile. Add the following lines to it:

FROM semitechnologies/transformers-inference:custom
RUN MODEL_NAME=distilroberta-base ./

Step 2: Build and tag your Dockerfile.

We will tag our Dockerfile as distilroberta-inference:

docker build -f distilroberta.Dockerfile -t distilroberta-inference .

Step 3: That’s it!

You can now push your image to your favorite registry or reference it locally in your Weaviate docker-compose.yaml using the docker tag distilroberta-inference.

Option 3: Custom build with a private or local model

You can build a docker image which supports any model which is compatible with Huggingface’s AutoModel and AutoTokenizer.

In the following example, we are going to build a custom image for a non-public model which we have locally stored at ./my-model.

Create a new Dockerfile (you do not need to clone this repository, any folder on your machine is fine), we will name it my-model.Dockerfile. Add the following lines to it:

FROM semitechnologies/transformers-inference:custom
COPY ./my-model /app/models/model

The above will make sure that your model end ups in the image at /app/models/model. This path is important, so that the application can find the model.

Now you just need to build and tag your Dockerfile, we will tag it as my-model-inference:

$ docker build -f my-model.Dockerfile -t my-model-inference .

That’s it! You can now push your image to your favorite registry or reference it locally in your Weaviate docker-compose.yaml using the docker tag my-model-inference.

To debug if your inference container is working correctly, you can send queries to the vectorizer module’s inference container directly, so you can see exactly what vectors it would produce for which input. To do so, you need to expose the inference container. in your docker-compose add something like

  - "9090:8080"

to your t2v-transformers.

Then you can send REST requests to it directly, e.g. curl localhost:9090/vectors -d '{"text": "foo bar"}' and it will print the created vector directly.

Transformers-specific module configuration (on classes and properties)

You can use the same module-configuration on your classes and properties which you already know from the text2vec-contextionary module. This includes vectorizeClassName, vectorizePropertyName and skip.

In addition you can use a class-level module config to select the pooling strategy with poolingStrategy. Allowed values are masked_mean or cls. They refer to different techniques to obtain a sentence-vector from individual word vectors as outlined in the Sentence-BERT paper.

Additional GraphQL API filters


The text2vec-transformers vectorizer module adds one filter for Get {} and Explore {} GraphQL functions: nearText: {}. This filter can be used for semantically searching text in your dataset.

Note: Cannot use multiple 'near' filters, or a 'near' filter along with an 'ask' filter!

Example GraphQL Get(nearText{}) filter

      nearText: {
        concepts: ["fashion"],
        certainty: 0.7,
        moveAwayFrom: {
          concepts: ["finance"],
          force: 0.45
        moveTo: {
          concepts: ["haute couture"],
          force: 0.85
      _additional {

🟢 Click here to try out this graphql example in the Weaviate Console.

Example GraphQL Explore(nearText{}) filter

  Explore (
    nearText: {
      concepts: ["New Yorker"],
      certainty: 0.95,
      moveAwayFrom: {
        concepts: ["fashion", "shop"],
        force: 0.2
      moveTo: {
        concepts: ["publisher", "articles"],
        force: 0.5
  ) {

🟢 Click here to try out this graphql example in the Weaviate Console.


You can set a minimum required certainty, which will be used to determine which data results to return. The value is a float between 0.0 (return all data objects, regardless similarity) and 1.0 (only return data objects that are matching completely, without any uncertainty). The certainty of a query result is computed by normalized distance of the fuzzy query and the data object in the vector space.


Because pagination is not possible in multidimensional storage, you can improve your results with additional explore functions which can move away from semantic concepts or towards semantic concepts. E.g., if you look for the concept ‘New York Times’ but don’t want to find the city New York, you can use the moveAwayFrom{} function by using the words ‘New York’. This is also a way to exclude concepts and to deal with negations (not operators in similar query languages). Concepts in the moveAwayFrom{} filter are not per definition excluded from the result, but the resulting concepts are further away from the concepts in this filter.

Moving can be done based on concepts and/or objects.

  • concepts requires a list of one or more words
  • objects requires a list of one or more objects, given by their id or beacon. For example:
      nearText: {
        concepts: ["fashion"],
        certainty: 0.7,
        moveTo: {
            objects: [{
                beacon: "weaviate://localhost/e5dc4a4c-ef0f-3aed-89a3-a73435c6bbcf"
            }, {
                id: "9f0c7463-8633-30ff-99e9-fd84349018f5" 
            concepts: ["summer"],
            force: 0.9
      _additional {

More resources

If you can’t find the answer to your question here, please look at the:

  1. Frequently Asked Questions. Or,
  2. Knowledge base of old issues. Or,
  3. For questions: Stackoverflow. Or,
  4. For issues: Github. Or,
  5. Ask your question in the Slack channel: Slack.
  • text2vec-transformers