How to Delete an Email Address from Gmail

Have you ever noticed that some email programs retain email addresses forever? This can cause problems with Gmail auto-complete list or autofill. This happened to a friend who mistakenly sent an email to a colleague’s old email account. I’ll skip the embarrassing parts and show you how to delete an email address from Gmail.

Note: This tutorial is not about deleting your Google account.

How Google Captures Email Addresses

Part of the problem arises because Google remembers whom you’ve sent an email to. For example, when you type an address in the To: box it becomes an auto-saved email address in Google Contacts.

Think of Google Contacts as your main contact list. Interestingly, it has two contact repositories. One is the main Contacts and the second is in a folder called Other Contacts

Other Contacts folder within Google Contacts.Pin
Scroll down for Other Contacts

In the example below, Google automatically adds a contact record for jane.doe@example.com to my Contacts once I click the Send button.

typing email to jane.doePin
New email address used.

If you were to open Google Contacts, you would see Jane’s new record with the email address and link to the test email. However, your contacts list will only show her email. Google does not know the entity behind the email address unless the person used their Google account.

Jane Doe contact recordPin
Minimal information carried over from Gmail.

A similar process happens if I hit Reply or use the Gmail shortcut key to someone I’ve not corresponded with. A common example is when you fill out some web support form. If you reply to their email, it will go to Other contacts.

Another way Google gets emails is when you imported contacts into Google Contacts or an email list.  Generally, this is OK unless you have similar entries that aren’t an exact match.

Gmail Autofill Suggestions

To make it easier, Google also shows emails and names when you start typing in the To: box of an email. This feature is called auto-complete or autofill. Google also prioritizes these addresses by frequency. 

Using the test example above for Jane Doe, you can see Google has added her information to the suggestion list. Unfortunately, this is also where people can run into problems. They may have entered the wrong email, misspelled it, or selected the wrong suggestion.

gmail suggesting emails for janePin
Gmail starts to filter for “Jane.”

Edit Gmail Auto Complete Suggestion List

The key to removing or changing an email address is to edit the underlying contact record. You can’t do it by deleting all the emails from that sender. Instead, you can:

  • Delete the contact record
  • Delete a contact’s email address
  • Change or add a contact’s email address

If you delete the only email address from a contact record, they will no longer show in the autofill list when you compose the email. Gmail requires the recipient to have an address.

Method 1: Delete Google Contact Record

Sometimes you want to remove an entire contact record. Perhaps, it’s a vendor or person you won’t be corresponding with. A good starting point is your Other Contacts folder. 

By deleting the record, these entries won’t show in your auto-complete or autofill list.

  1. Log into your Google account.
  2. Go to https://contacts.google.com.
  3. Start typing either your contact’s name or email address in the search bar at the top.

In the example below, I entered the word “help”. Google then displays any contact record with that word in the entity name or one of the associated email addresses. 

If there isn’t an entity name such as “Jane Doe” or “help”, Google will use the email address.

Email addresses matching "help".Pin
Email addresses referencing “help”
  1. Click the desired contact record.
  2. Click the three-dot icon on the right side.
  3. From the drop-down menu, select Delete.
Delete the Contact record.Pin
Deleting a contact record
  1. Click Delete.
  2. Log out of Gmail and sign back in.

When you compose an email message and start typing in the To: field, your changes should show. However, you will not see any entry for your deleted contact record in the auto-complete suggestion list.

Deleting the Google contact will not remove any correspondence. You should still have your emails.

Method 2: Delete or Edit a Contact Email Address

Another common example is when people change their email address or company. In this scenario, you want to keep the contact record. Instead, we’ll remove an alternate email address.

  1. Log into your Google account.
  2. Go to https://contacts.google.com.
  3. Start typing either your contact’s name or email address in the search bar at the top.
  4. Click your desired contact record.
  5. Click the blue Edit button on the right side.
  6. Scroll down to the Email section.
  7. Move your mouse to the right of the email address you’d like to remove.
  8. An X should appear with the word Remove.
Remove email address control.Pin
Hover to show Remove control
  1. Click the X.
  2. Click the Save button.
  3.  Log out of Gmail and sign back in.

How to Turn Off Auto-Complete Contacts

Some people prefer not to have email addresses added automatically.  Instead, they prefer to add contacts or limit the primary email address.

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Click the Gear icon in the top right. This will open your Settings page.
  3. Click See all settings. You should be on the General tab.
  4. Scroll down to Create contacts from auto-complete.
  5. Tick the radio button I’ll add contacts myself.
change auto-complete options
  1. Scroll down and click the Save Changes button.

Why am I still Seeing Addresses?

Sometimes people still see records for deleted items. The majority of the time this is because people forgot to log out of Gmail and then back in. And if that doesn’t work, I would clear the browser cache and reboot. 

While Google is smart in many ways, you need to offer a helping hand to clean emails. Otherwise, you could find yourself sending correspondence to irrelevant email addresses.