O'Reilly logo

MySQL Reference Manual by Kaj Arno, David Axmark, Michael Widenius

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Column Types

MySQL supports a number of column types, which may be grouped into three categories: numeric types, date and time types, and string (character) types. This section first gives an overview of the types available and summarises the storage requirements for each column type, then provides a more detailed description of the properties of the types in each category. The overview is intentionally brief. The more detailed descriptions should be consulted for additional information about particular column types, such as the allowable formats in which you can specify values.

The column types supported by MySQL are listed next. The following code letters are used in the descriptions:

M

Indicates the maximum display size. The maximum legal display size is 255.

D

Applies to floating-point types and indicates the number of digits following the decimal point. The maximum possible value is 30, but should be no greater than M-2.

Square brackets ([ and ]) indicate parts of type specifiers that are optional.

Note that if you specify ZEROFILL for a column, MySQL will automatically add the UNSIGNED attribute to the column.

Warning: you should be aware that when you use subtraction between integer values where one is of type UNSIGNED, the result will be unsigned! See Section 6.3.5.

TINYINT[(M)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

A very small integer. The signed range is -128 to 127. The unsigned range is 0 to 255.

BIT , BOOL

These are synonyms for TINYINT(1).

SMALLINT[(M)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

A small integer. The signed range is -32768 to 32767. The unsigned range is 0 to 65535.

MEDIUMINT[(M)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

A medium-size integer. The signed range is -8388608 to 8388607. The unsigned range is 0 to 16777215.

INT[(M)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

A normal-size integer. The signed range is -2147483648 to 2147483647. The unsigned range is 0 to 4294967295.

INTEGER[(M)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

This is a synonym for INT.

BIGINT[(M)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

A large integer. The signed range is -9223372036854775808 to 9223372036854775807. The unsigned range is 0 to 18446744073709551615.

Some things you should be aware of with respect to BIGINT columns:

  • All arithmetic is done using signed BIGINT or DOUBLE values, so you shouldn’t use unsigned big integers larger than 9223372036854775807 (63 bits) except with bit functions! If you do that, some of the last digits in the result may be wrong because of rounding errors when converting the BIGINT to a DOUBLE.

    MySQL 4.0 can handle BIGINT in the following cases:

    • Use integers to store big unsigned values in a BIGINT column.

    • In MIN(big_int_column) and MAX(big_int_column).

    • When using operators (+, -, *, etc.) where both operands are integers.

  • You can always store an exact integer value in a BIGINT column by storing it as a string. In this case, MySQL will perform a string-to-number conversion that involves no intermediate double representation.

  • -, +, and * will use BIGINT arithmetic when both arguments are integer values! This means that if you multiply two big integers (or results from functions that return integers), you may get unexpected results when the result is larger than 9223372036854775807.

FLOAT(precision) [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

A floating-point number. precision can be <=24 for a single-precision floating-point number and between 25 and 53 for a double-precision floating-point number. These types are like the FLOAT and DOUBLE types described next. FLOAT(X) has the same range as the corresponding FLOAT and DOUBLE types, but the display size and number of decimals are undefined.

In MySQL Version 3.23, this is a true floating-point value. In earlier MySQL versions, FLOAT(precision) always has 2 decimals.

Note that using FLOAT may give you some unexpected problems, as all calculations in MySQL are done with double precision. See Section A.5.6.

This syntax is provided for ODBC compatibility.

FLOAT[(M,D)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

A small (single-precision) floating-point number. Allowable values are -3.402823466E+38 to -1.175494351E-38, 0, and 1.175494351E-38 to 3.402823466E+38. If UNSIGNED is specified, negative values are disallowed. The M is the display width and D is the number of decimals. FLOAT without arguments or FLOAT(X) where X <= 24 stands for a single-precision floating-point number.

DOUBLE[(M,D)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

A normal-size (double-precision) floating-point number. Allowable values are -1.7976931348623157E+308 to -2.2250738585072014E-308, 0, and 2.2250738585072014E-308 to 1.7976931348623157E+308. If UNSIGNED is specified, negative values are disallowed. The M is the display width and D is the number of decimals. DOUBLE without arguments or FLOAT(X) where 25 <= X <= 53 stands for a double-precision floating-point number.

DOUBLE PRECISION[(M,D)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL] , REAL[(M,D)] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

These are synonyms for DOUBLE.

DECIMAL[(M[,D])] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

An unpacked floating-point number. Behaves like a CHAR column: “unpacked” means the number is stored as a string, using one character for each digit of the value. The decimal point and, for negative numbers, the - sign are not counted in M (but space for these is reserved). If D is 0, values will have no decimal point or fractional part. The maximum range of DECIMAL values is the same as for DOUBLE, but the actual range for a given DECIMAL column may be constrained by the choice of M and D. If UNSIGNED is specified, negative values are disallowed.

If D is omitted, the default is 0. If M is omitted, the default is 10.

In MySQL versions prior to Version 3.23, the M argument must include the space needed for the sign and the decimal point.

DEC[(M[,D])] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL] , NUMERIC[(M[,D])] [UNSIGNED] [ZEROFILL]

These are synonyms for DECIMAL.

DATE

A date. The supported range is '1000-01-01' to '9999-12-31'. MySQL displays DATE values in YYYY-MM-DD format, but allows you to assign values to DATE columns using either strings or numbers. See Section 6.2.2.2.

DATETIME

A date and time combination. The supported range is '1000-01-01 00:00:00' to '9999-12-31 23:59:59'. MySQL displays DATETIME values in YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format, allowing you to assign values to DATETIME columns with strings or numbers. See Section 6.2.2.2.

TIMESTAMP[(M)]

A timestamp. The range is '1970-01-01 00:00:00' to sometime in the year 2037. MySQL displays TIMESTAMP values in YYYYMMDDHHMMSS, YYMMDDHHMMSS, YYYYMMDD, or YYMMDD format, depending on whether M is 14 (or missing), 12, 8, or 6, but allows you to assign values to TIMESTAMP columns using either strings or numbers. A TIMESTAMP column is useful for recording the date and time of an INSERT or UPDATE operation because it is automatically set to the date and time of the most recent operation if you don’t give it a value yourself. You can also set it to the current date and time by assigning it a NULL value. See Section 6.2.2.

The M argument affects only how a TIMESTAMP column is displayed; its values always are stored using 4 bytes each.

Note that TIMESTAMP(M) columns where M is 8 or 14 are reported to be numbers while other TIMESTAMP(M) columns are reported to be strings. This is just to ensure that one can reliably dump and restore the table with these types! See Section 6.2.2.2.

TIME

A time. The range is '-838:59:59' to '838:59:59'. MySQL displays TIME values in HH:MM:SS format, but allows you to assign values to TIME columns using either strings or numbers. See Section 6.2.2.3.

YEAR[(2|4)]

A year in 2- or 4-digit format (default is 4-digit). The allowable values are 1901 to 2155, 0000 in the 4-digit year format, and 1970-2069 if you use the 2-digit format (70-69). MySQL displays YEAR values in YYYY format, but allows you to assign values to YEAR columns using either strings or numbers. (The YEAR type is unavailable prior to MySQL Version 3.22.) See Section 6.2.2.4.

[NATIONAL] CHAR(M) [BINARY]

A fixed-length string that is always right-padded with spaces to the specified length when stored. The range of M is 0 to 255 characters (1 to 255 prior to MySQL Version 3.23). Trailing spaces are removed when the value is retrieved. CHAR values are sorted and compared in case-insensitive fashion according to the default character set unless the BINARY keyword is given.

NATIONAL CHAR (or its equivalent short form, NCHAR) is the ANSI SQL way to define that a CHAR column should use the default CHARACTER set. This is the default in MySQL.

CHAR is shorthand for CHARACTER.

MySQL allows you to create a column of type CHAR(0). This is mainly useful when you have to be compliant with some old applications that depend on the existence of a column but that do not actually use the value. This is also quite nice when you need a column that only can take 2 values: a CHAR(0), that is not defined as NOT NULL, will occupy only one bit and can take only 2 values: NULL or "". See Section 6.2.3.1.

CHAR

This is a synonym for CHAR(1).

[NATIONAL] VARCHAR(M) [BINARY]

A variable-length string. Note: trailing spaces are removed when the value is stored (this differs from the ANSI SQL specification). The range of M is 0 to 255 characters (1 to 255 prior to MySQL Version 4.0.2). VARCHAR values are sorted and compared in case-insensitive fashion unless the BINARY keyword is given. See Section 6.5.3.1.

VARCHAR is shorthand for CHARACTER VARYING. See Section 6.2.3.1.

TINYBLOB , TINYTEXT

A BLOB or TEXT column with a maximum length of 255 (2^8 - 1) characters. See Section 6.5.3.1. See Section 6.2.3.2.

BLOB , TEXT

A BLOB or TEXT column with a maximum length of 65535 (2^16 - 1) characters. See Section 6.5.3.1. See Section 6.2.3.2.

MEDIUMBLOB , MEDIUMTEXT

A BLOB or TEXT column with a maximum length of 16777215 (2^24 - 1) characters. See Section 6.5.3.1. See Section 6.2.3.2.

LONGBLOB , LONGTEXT

A BLOB or TEXT column with a maximum length of 4294967295 (2^32 - 1) characters. See Section 6.5.3.1. Note that because the server/client protocol and MyISAM tables currently have a limit of 16M per communication packet/table row, you can’t yet use the whole range of this type. See Section 6.2.3.2.

ENUM('value1','value2',...)

An enumeration. A string object that can have only one value, chosen from the list of values 'value1', 'value2', ..., NULL, or the special "" error value. An ENUM can have a maximum of 65535 distinct values. See Section 6.2.3.3.

SET('value1','value2',...)

A set. A string object that can have zero or more values, each of which must be chosen from the list of values 'value1', 'value2', ... A SET can have a maximum of 64 members. See Section 6.2.3.4.

Numeric Types

MySQL supports all of the ANSI/ISO SQL92 numeric types. These types include the exact numeric datatypes (NUMERIC, DECIMAL, INTEGER, and SMALLINT), as well as the approximate numeric datatypes (FLOAT, REAL, and DOUBLE PRECISION). The keyword INT is a synonym for INTEGER, and the keyword DEC is a synonym for DECIMAL.

The NUMERIC and DECIMAL types are implemented as the same type by MySQL, as permitted by the SQL92 standard. They are used for values for which it is important to preserve exact precision— for example, with monetary data. When declaring a column of one of these types the precision and scale can be (and usually are) specified. For example:

    salary DECIMAL(9,2)

In this example, 9 (precision) represents the number of significant decimal digits that will be stored for values, and 2 (scale) represents the number of digits that will be stored following the decimal point. In this case, therefore, the range of values that can be stored in the salary column is from -9999999.99 to 9999999.99. (MySQL can actually store numbers up to 9999999.99 in this column because it doesn’t have to store the sign for positive numbers.)

In ANSI/ISO SQL92, the syntax DECIMAL(p) is equivalent to DECIMAL(p,0). Similarly, the syntax DECIMAL is equivalent to DECIMAL(p,0), where the implementation is allowed to decide the value of p. MySQL does not currently support either of these variant forms of the DECIMAL/NUMERIC datatypes. This is not generally a serious problem, as the principal benefits of these types derive from the ability to control both precision and scale explicitly.

DECIMAL and NUMERIC values are stored as strings, rather than as binary floating-point numbers, in order to preserve the decimal precision of those values. One character is used for each digit of the value, the decimal point (if scale > 0), and the - sign (for negative numbers). If scale is 0, DECIMAL and NUMERIC values contain no decimal point or fractional part.

The maximum range of DECIMAL and NUMERIC values is the same as for DOUBLE, but the actual range for a given DECIMAL or NUMERIC column can be constrained by the precision or scale for a given column. When such a column is assigned a value with more digits following the decimal point than are allowed by the specified scale, the value is rounded to that scale. When a DECIMAL or NUMERIC column is assigned a value whose magnitude exceeds the range implied by the specified (or defaulted) precision and scale, MySQL stores the value representing the corresponding end point of that range.

As an extension to the ANSI/ISO SQL92 standard, MySQL also supports the integer types TINYINT, MEDIUMINT, and BIGINT as listed in the preceding tables. Another extension is supported by MySQL for optionally specifying the display width of an integer value in parentheses following the base keyword for the type (for example, INT(4)). This optional width specification is used to left-pad the display of values whose width is less than the width specified for the column, but does not constrain the range of values that can be stored in the column, nor the number of digits that will be displayed for values whose width exceeds that specified for the column. When used in conjunction with the optional extension attribute ZEROFILL, the default padding of spaces is replaced with zeroes. For example, for a column declared as INT(5) ZEROFILL, a value of 4 is retrieved as 00004. Note that if you store larger values than the display width in an integer column, you may experience problems when MySQL generates temporary tables for some complicated joins, as in these cases MySQL trusts that the data did fit into the original column width.

All integer types can have an optional (non-standard) attribute UNSIGNED. Unsigned values can be used when you want to allow only positive numbers in a column and you need a little bigger numeric range for the column.

As of MySQL 4.0.2, floating-point types also can be UNSIGNED. As with integer types, this attribute prevents negative values from being stored in the column. Unlike the integer types, the upper range of column values remains the same.

The FLOAT type is used to represent approximate numeric data types. The ANSI/ISO SQL92 standard allows an optional specification of the precision (but not the range of the exponent) in bits following the keyword FLOAT in parentheses. The MySQL implementation also supports this optional precision specification. When the keyword FLOAT is used for a column type without a precision specification, MySQL uses four bytes to store the values. A variant syntax is also supported, with two numbers given in parentheses following the FLOAT keyword. With this option, the first number continues to represent the storage requirements for the value in bytes, and the second number specifies the number of digits to be stored and displayed following the decimal point (as with DECIMAL and NUMERIC). When MySQL is asked to store a number for such a column with more decimal digits following the decimal point than specified for the column, the value is rounded to eliminate the extra digits when the value is stored.

The REAL and DOUBLE PRECISION types do not accept precision specifications. As an extension to the ANSI/ISO SQL92 standard, MySQL recognises DOUBLE as a synonym for the DOUBLE PRECISION type. In contrast with the standard’s requirement that the precision for REAL be smaller than that used for DOUBLE PRECISION, MySQL implements both as 8-byte double-precision floating-point values (when not running in “ANSI mode”). For maximum portability, code requiring storage of approximate numeric data values should use FLOAT or DOUBLE PRECISION with no specification of precision or number of decimal points.

When asked to store a value in a numeric column that is outside the column type’s allowable range, MySQL clips the value to the appropriate endpoint of the range and stores the resulting value instead.

For example, the range of an INT column is -2147483648 to 2147483647. If you try to insert -9999999999 into an INT column, the value is clipped to the lower endpoint of the range, and -2147483648 is stored instead. Similarly, if you try to insert 9999999999, 2147483647 is stored instead.

If the INT column is UNSIGNED, the size of the column’s range is the same but its endpoints shift up to 0 and 4294967295. If you try to store -9999999999 and 9999999999, the values stored in the column become 0 and 4294967296.

Conversions that occur due to clipping are reported as “warnings” for ALTER TABLE, LOAD DATA INFILE, UPDATE, and multi-row INSERT statements.

Date and Time Types

The date and time types are DATETIME, DATE, TIMESTAMP, TIME, and YEAR. Each of these has a range of legal values, as well as a “zero” value that is used when you specify a really illegal value. Note that MySQL allows you to store certain “not strictly” legal date values—for example, 1999-11-31. The reason for this is that we think it’s the responsibility of the application to handle date checking, not the SQL servers. To make the date checking “fast”, MySQL only checks that the month is in the range of 0-12 and the day is in the range of 0-31. These ranges are defined this way because MySQL allows you to store, in a DATE or DATETIME column, dates where the day or month-day is zero. This is extremely useful for applications that need to store a birthdate for which you don’t know the exact date. In this case you simply store the date like 1999-00-00 or 1999-01-00. (You cannot expect to get a correct value from functions like DATE_SUB( ) or DATE_ADD for dates like these.)

Here are some general considerations to keep in mind when working with date and time types:

  • MySQL retrieves values for a given date or time type in a standard format, but it attempts to interpret a variety of formats for values that you supply (for example, when you specify a value to be assigned to or compared to a date or time type). Nevertheless, only the formats described in the following sections are supported. It is expected that you will supply legal values, and unpredictable results may occur if you use values in other formats.

  • Although MySQL tries to interpret values in several formats, it always expects the year part of date values to be leftmost. Dates must be given in year-month-day order (for example, '98-09-04'), rather than in the month-day-year or day-month-year orders commonly used elsewhere (for example, '09-04-98', '04-09-98').

  • MySQL automatically converts a date or time type value to a number if the value is used in a numeric context, and vice versa.

  • When MySQL encounters a value for a date or time type that is out of range or otherwise illegal for the type (see the start of this section), it converts the value to the “zero” value for that type. (The exception is that out-of-range TIME values are clipped to the appropriate endpoint of the TIME range.) The following table shows the format of the “zero” value for each type:

    Column type

    "Zero” value

    DATETIME

    '0000-00-00 00:00:00'

    DATE

    '0000-00-00'

    TIMESTAMP

    00000000000000 (length depends on display size)

    TIME

    '00:00:00'

    YEAR

    0000

  • The “zero” values are special, but you can store or refer to them explicitly using the values shown in the table. You can also do this using the values '0' or 0, which are easier to write.

  • “Zero” date or time values used through MyODBC are converted automatically to NULL in MyODBC Versions 2.50.12 and above because ODBC can’t handle such values.

Y2K issues and datetypes

MySQL itself is Y2K-safe (see Section 1.2.5), but input values presented to MySQL may not be. Any input containing 2-digit year values is ambiguous because the century is unknown. Such values must be interpreted into 4-digit form because MySQL stores years internally using four digits.

For DATETIME, DATE, TIMESTAMP, and YEAR types, MySQL interprets dates with ambiguous year values using the following rules:

  • Year values in the range 00-69 are converted to 2000-2069.

  • Year values in the range 70-99 are converted to 1970-1999.

Remember that these rules provide only reasonable guesses as to what your data means. If the heuristics used by MySQL don’t produce the correct values, you should provide unambiguous input containing 4-digit year values.

ORDER BY will sort 2-digit YEAR/DATE/DATETIME types properly.

Note also that some functions like MIN( ) and MAX( ) will convert a TIMESTAMP/DATE to a number. This means that a timestamp with a 2-digit year will not work properly with these functions. The fix in this case is to convert the TIMESTAMP/DATE to 4-digit year format or use something like MIN(DATE_ADD(timestamp,INTERVAL 0 DAYS)).

The DATETIME, DATE, and TIMESTAMP types

The DATETIME, DATE, and TIMESTAMP types are related. This section describes their characteristics, how they are similar, and how they differ.

The DATETIME type is used when you need values that contain both date and time information. MySQL retrieves and displays DATETIME values in YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format. The supported range is '1000-01-01 00:00:00' to '9999-12-31 23:59:59'. (“Supported” means that although earlier values might work, there is no guarantee that they will.)

The DATE type is used when you need only a date value, without a time part. MySQL retrieves and displays DATE values in YYYY-MM-DD format. The supported range is '1000-01-01' to '9999-12-31'.

The TIMESTAMP column type provides a type that you can use to automatically mark INSERT or UPDATE operations with the current date and time. If you have multiple TIMESTAMP columns, only the first one is updated automatically.

Automatic updating of the first TIMESTAMP column occurs under any of the following conditions:

  • The column is not specified explicitly in an INSERT or LOAD DATA INFILE statement.

  • The column is not specified explicitly in an UPDATE statement and some other column changes value. (Note that an UPDATE that sets a column to the value it already has will not cause the TIMESTAMP column to be updated because if you set a column to its current value, MySQL ignores the update for efficiency.)

  • You explicitly set the TIMESTAMP column to NULL.

TIMESTAMP columns other than the first may also be set to the current date and time. Just set the column to NULL or to NOW( ).

You can set any TIMESTAMP column to a value different from the current date and time by setting it explicitly to the desired value. This is true even for the first TIMESTAMP column. You can use this property if, for example, you want a TIMESTAMP to be set to the current date and time when you create a row, but not to be changed whenever the row is updated later:

  • Let MySQL set the column when the row is created. This will initialise it to the current date and time.

  • When you perform subsequent updates to other columns in the row, set the TIME- STAMP column explicitly to its current value.

On the other hand, you may find it just as easy to use a DATETIME column that you initialise to NOW( ) when the row is created and leave alone for subsequent updates.

TIMESTAMP values may range from the beginning of 1970 to sometime in the year 2037, with a resolution of one second. Values are displayed as numbers.

The format in which MySQL retrieves and displays TIMESTAMP values depends on the display size, as illustrated in the following table. The “full” TIMESTAMP format is 14 digits, but TIMESTAMP columns may be created with shorter display sizes:

Column type

Display format

TIMESTAMP(14)

YYYYMMDDHHMMSS

TIMESTAMP(12)

YYMMDDHHMMSS

TIMESTAMP(10)

YYMMDDHHMM

TIMESTAMP(8)

YYYYMMDD

TIMESTAMP(6)

YYMMDD

TIMESTAMP(4)

YYMM

TIMESTAMP(2)

YY

All TIMESTAMP columns have the same storage size, regardless of display size. The most common display sizes are 6, 8, 12, and 14. You can specify an arbitrary display size at table creation time, but values of 0 or greater than 14 are coerced to 14. Odd-valued sizes in the range from 1 to 13 are coerced to the next higher even number.

You can specify DATETIME, DATE, and TIMESTAMP values using any of a common set of formats:

  • As a string in either YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS or YY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format. A “relaxed” syntax is allowed---any punctuation character may be used as the delimiter between date parts or time parts. For example, '98-12-31 11:30:45', '98.12.31 11+30+45', '98/12/31 11*30*45', and '98@12@31 11^30^45' are equivalent.

  • As a string in either YYYY-MM-DD or YY-MM-DD format. A “relaxed” syntax is allowed here, too. For example, '98-12-31', '98.12.31', '98/12/31', and '98@12@31' are equivalent.

  • As a string with no delimiters in either YYYYMMDDHHMMSS or YYMMDDHHMMSS format, provided that the string makes sense as a date. For example, '19970523091528' and '970523091528' are interpreted as '1997-05-23 09:15:28', but '971122129015' is illegal (it has a nonsensical minute part) and becomes '0000-00-00 00:00:00'.

  • As a string with no delimiters in either YYYYMMDD or YYMMDD format, provided that the string makes sense as a date. For example, '19970523' and '970523' are interpreted as '1997-05-23', but '971332' is illegal (it has nonsensical month and day parts) and becomes '0000-00-00'.

  • As a number in either YYYYMMDDHHMMSS or YYMMDDHHMMSS format, provided that the number makes sense as a date. For example, 19830905132800 and 830905132800 are interpreted as '1983-09-05 13:28:00'.

  • As a number in either YYYYMMDD or YYMMDD format, provided that the number makes sense as a date. For example, 19830905 and 830905 are interpreted as '1983-09-05'.

  • As the result of a function that returns a value that is acceptable in a DATETIME, DATE, or TIMESTAMP context, such as NOW( ) or CURRENT_DATE.

Illegal DATETIME, DATE, or TIMESTAMP values are converted to the “zero” value of the appropriate type ('0000-00-00 00:00:00', '0000-00-00', or 00000000000000).

For values specified as strings that include date part delimiters, it is not necessary to specify two digits for month or day values that are less than 10. '1979-6-9' is the same as '1979-06-09'. Similarly, for values specified as strings that include time part delimiters, it is not necessary to specify two digits for hour, month, or second values that are less than 10. '1979-10-30 1:2:3' is the same as '1979-10-30 01:02:03'.

Values specified as numbers should be 6, 8, 12, or 14 digits long. If the number is 8 or 14 digits long, it is assumed to be in YYYYMMDD or YYYYMMDDHHMMSS format and that the year is given by the first 4 digits. If the number is 6 or 12 digits long, it is assumed to be in YYMMDD or YYMMDDHHMMSS format and that the year is given by the first 2 digits. Numbers that are not one of these lengths are interpreted as though padded with leading zeros to the closest length.

Values specified as non-delimited strings are interpreted using their length as given. If the string is 8 or 14 characters long, the year is assumed to be given by the first 4 characters. Otherwise, the year is assumed to be given by the first 2 characters. The string is interpreted from left to right to find year, month, day, hour, minute, and second values, for as many parts as are present in the string. This means you should not use strings that have fewer than 6 characters. For example, if you specify '9903', thinking that will represent March, 1999, you will find that MySQL inserts a “zero” date into your table. This is because the year and month values are 99 and 03, but the day part is missing (zero), so the value is not a legal date.

TIMESTAMP columns store legal values using the full precision with which the value was specified, regardless of the display size. This has several implications:

  • Always specify year, month, and day, even if your column types are TIMESTAMP(4) or TIMESTAMP(2). Otherwise, the value will not be a legal date and 0 will be stored.

  • If you use ALTER TABLE to widen a narrow TIMESTAMP column, information will be displayed that previously was “hidden”.

  • Similarly, narrowing a TIMESTAMP column does not cause information to be lost, except in the sense that less information is shown when the values are displayed.

  • Although TIMESTAMP values are stored to full precision, the only function that operates directly on the underlying stored value is UNIX_TIMESTAMP( ). Other functions operate on the formatted retrieved value. This means you cannot use functions such as HOUR( ) or SECOND( ) unless the relevant part of the TIMESTAMP value is included in the formatted value. For example, the HH part of a TIMESTAMP column is not displayed unless the display size is at least 10, so trying to use HOUR( ) on shorter TIMESTAMP values produces a meaningless result.

You can to some extent assign values of one date type to an object of a different date type. However, there may be some alteration of the value or loss of information:

  • If you assign a DATE value to a DATETIME or TIMESTAMP object, the time part of the resulting value is set to '00:00:00' because the DATE value contains no time information.

  • If you assign a DATETIME or TIMESTAMP value to a DATE object, the time part of the resulting value is deleted because the DATE type stores no time information.

  • Remember that although DATETIME, DATE, and TIMESTAMP values all can be specified using the same set of formats, the types do not all have the same range of values. For example, TIMESTAMP values cannot be earlier than 1970 or later than 2037. This means that a date such as '1968-01-01', while legal as a DATETIME or DATE value, is not a valid TIMESTAMP value and will be converted to 0 if assigned to such an object.

Be aware of certain pitfalls when specifying date values:

  • The relaxed format allowed for values specified as strings can be deceiving. For example, a value such as '10:11:12' might look like a time value because of the : delimiter, but if used in a date context will be interpreted as the year '2010-11-12'. The value '10:45:15' will be converted to '0000-00-00' because '45' is not a legal month.

  • Year values specified as two digits are ambiguous because the century is unknown. MySQL interprets 2-digit year values using the following rules:

    • Year values in the range 00-69 are converted to 2000-2069.

    • Year values in the range 70-99 are converted to 1970-1999.

The TIME type

MySQL retrieves and displays TIME values in HH:MM:SS format (or HHH:MM:SS format for large hour values). TIME values may range from '-838:59:59' to '838:59:59'. The reason the hours part may be so large is that the TIME type may be used not only to represent a time of day (which must be less than 24 hours), but also elapsed time or a time interval between two events (which may be much greater than 24 hours, or even negative).

You can specify TIME values in a variety of formats:

  • As a string in D HH:MM:SS.fraction format. (Note that MySQL doesn’t yet store the fraction for the time column.) One can also use one of the following “relaxed” syntaxes:

    HH:MM:SS.fraction, HH:MM:SS, HH:MM, D HH:MM:SS, D HH:MM, D HH, or SS. Here D is days between 0-33.

  • As a string with no delimiters in HHMMSS format, provided that it makes sense as a time. For example, '101112' is understood as '10:11:12', but '109712' is illegal (it has a nonsensical minute part) and becomes '00:00:00'.

  • As a number in HHMMSS format, provided that it makes sense as a time. For example, 101112 is understood as '10:11:12'. The following alternative formats are also understood: SS, MMSS, HHMMSS, and HHMMSS.fraction. Note that MySQL doesn’t yet store the fraction part.

  • As the result of a function that returns a value that is acceptable in a TIME context, such as CURRENT_TIME.

For TIME values specified as strings that include a time part delimiter, it is not necessary to specify two digits for hours, minutes, or seconds values that are less than 10. '8:3:2' is the same as '08:03:02'.

Be careful about assigning “short” TIME values to a TIME column. Without colons, MySQL interprets values using the assumption that the rightmost digits represent seconds. (MySQL interprets TIME values as elapsed time rather than as time of day.) For example, you might think of '1112' and 1112 as meaning '11:12:00' (12 minutes after 11 o’clock), but MySQL interprets them as '00:11:12' (11 minutes, 12 seconds). Similarly, '12' and 12 are interpreted as '00:00:12'. TIME values with colons, by contrast, are always treated as time of the day. That is, '11:12' will mean '11:12:00', not '00:11:12'.

Values that lie outside the TIME range but are otherwise legal are clipped to the appropriate endpoint of the range. For example, '-850:00:00' and '850:00:00' are converted to '-838:59:59' and '838:59:59'.

Illegal TIME values are converted to '00:00:00'. Note that because '00:00:00' is itself a legal TIME value, there is no way to tell, from a value of '00:00:00' stored in a table, whether the original value was specified as '00:00:00' or whether it was illegal.

The YEAR type

The YEAR type is a 1-byte type used for representing years.

MySQL retrieves and displays YEAR values in YYYY format. The range is 1901 to 2155.

You can specify YEAR values in a variety of formats:

  • As a four-digit string in the range '1901' to '2155'.

  • As a four-digit number in the range 1901 to 2155.

  • As a two-digit string in the range '00' to '99'. Values in the ranges '00' to '69' and '70' to '99' are converted to YEAR values in the ranges 2000 to 2069 and 1970 to 1999.

  • As a two-digit number in the range 1 to 99. Values in the ranges 1 to 69 and 70 to 99 are converted to YEAR values in the ranges 2001 to 2069 and 1970 to 1999. Note that the range for two-digit numbers is slightly different from the range for two-digit strings, because you cannot specify zero directly as a number and have it be interpreted as 2000. You must specify it as a string '0' or '00' or it will be interpreted as 0000.

  • As the result of a function that returns a value that is acceptable in a YEAR context, such as NOW( ).

Illegal YEAR values are converted to 0000.

String Types

The string types are CHAR, VARCHAR, BLOB, TEXT, ENUM, and SET. This section describes how these types work, their storage requirements, and how to use them in your queries.

The CHAR and VARCHAR types

The CHAR and VARCHAR types are similar, but differ in the way they are stored and retrieved.

The length of a CHAR column is fixed to the length that you declare when you create the table. The length can be any value between 1 and 255. (As of MySQL Version 3.23, the length of CHAR may be 0 to 255.) When CHAR values are stored, they are right-padded with spaces to the specified length. When CHAR values are retrieved, trailing spaces are removed.

Values in VARCHAR columns are variable-length strings. You can declare a VARCHAR column to be any length between 1 and 255, just as for CHAR columns. However, in contrast to CHAR, VARCHAR values are stored using only as many characters as are needed, plus one byte to record the length. Values are not padded; instead, trailing spaces are removed when values are stored. (This space removal differs from the ANSI SQL specification.)

If you assign a value to a CHAR or VARCHAR column that exceeds the column’s maximum length, the value is truncated to fit.

The following table illustrates the differences between the two types of columns by showing the result of storing various string values into CHAR(4) and VARCHAR(4) columns:

Value

CHAR(4)

Storage required

VARCHAR(4)

Storage required

"

' '

4 bytes

"

1 byte

'ab'

'ab '

4 bytes

'ab'

3 bytes

'abcd'

'abcd'

4 bytes

'abcd'

5 bytes

'abcdefgh'

'abcd'

4 bytes

'abcd'

5 bytes

The values retrieved from the CHAR(4) and VARCHAR(4) columns will be the same in each case because trailing spaces are removed from CHAR columns upon retrieval.

Values in CHAR and VARCHAR columns are sorted and compared in case-insensitive fashion, unless the BINARY attribute was specified when the table was created. The BINARY attribute means that column values are sorted and compared in case-sensitive fashion according to the ASCII order of the machine where the MySQL server is running. BINARY doesn’t affect how the column is stored or retrieved.

The BINARY attribute is sticky. This means that if a column marked BINARY is used in an expression, the whole expression is compared as a BINARY value.

MySQL may silently change the type of a CHAR or VARCHAR column at table creation time. See Section 6.5.3.1.

The BLOB and TEXT types

A BLOB is a binary large object that can hold a variable amount of data. The four BLOB types—TINYBLOB, BLOB, MEDIUMBLOB, and LONGBLOB—differ only in the maximum length of the values they can hold. See Section 6.2.6.

The four TEXT types—TINYTEXT, TEXT, MEDIUMTEXT, and LONGTEXT—correspond to the four BLOB types and have the same maximum lengths and storage requirements. The only difference between the BLOB and TEXT types is that sorting and comparison are performed in case-sensitive fashion for BLOB values and case-insensitive fashion for TEXT values. In other words, a TEXT is a case-insensitive BLOB.

If you assign a value to a BLOB or TEXT column that exceeds the column type’s maximum length, the value is truncated to fit.

In most respects, you can regard a TEXT column as a VARCHAR column that can be as big as you like. Similarly, you can regard a BLOB column as a VARCHAR BINARY column. The differences are:

  • You can have indexes on BLOB and TEXT columns with MySQL Versions 3.23.2 and newer. Older versions of MySQL did not support this.

  • There is no trailing-space removal for BLOB and TEXT columns when values are stored, as there is for VARCHAR columns.

  • BLOB and TEXT columns cannot have DEFAULT values.

MyODBC defines BLOB values as LONGVARBINARY and TEXT values as LONGVARCHAR.

Because BLOB and TEXT values may be extremely long, you may run up against some constraints when using them:

  • If you want to use GROUP BY or ORDER BY on a BLOB or TEXT column, you must convert the column value into a fixed-length object. The standard way to do this is with the SUBSTRING function. For example:

    mysql> SELECT comment FROM tbl_name,SUBSTRING(comment,20) AS substr
        ->                 ORDER BY substr;

    If you don’t do this, only the first max_sort_length bytes of the column are used when sorting. The default value of max_sort_length is 1024; this value can be changed using the -O option when starting the mysqld server. You can group on an expression involving BLOB or TEXT values by specifying the column position or by using an alias:

    mysql> SELECT id,SUBSTRING(blob_col,1,100) FROM tbl_name GROUP BY 2;
    mysql> SELECT id,SUBSTRING(blob_col,1,100) AS b FROM tbl_name GROUP BY b;
  • The maximum size of a BLOB or TEXT object is determined by its type, but the largest value you can actually transmit between the client and server is determined by the amount of available memory and the size of the communications buffers. You can change the message buffer size, but you must do so on both the server and client ends. See Section 5.5.2.

Note that each BLOB or TEXT value is represented internally by a separately allocated object. This is in contrast to all other column types, for which storage is allocated once per column when the table is opened.

The ENUM type

An ENUM is a string object whose value normally is chosen from a list of allowed values that are enumerated explicitly in the column specification at table creation time.

The value may also be the empty string ("") or NULL under certain circumstances:

  • If you insert an invalid value into an ENUM (that is, a string not present in the list of allowed values), the empty string is inserted instead as a special error value. This string can be distinguished from a “normal” empty string by the fact that this string has the numerical value 0. More about this later.

  • If an ENUM is declared NULL, NULL is also a legal value for the column, and the default value is NULL. If an ENUM is declared NOT NULL, the default value is the first element of the list of allowed values.

Each enumeration value has an index:

  • Values from the list of allowable elements in the column specification are numbered beginning with 1.

  • The index value of the empty string error value is 0. This means that you can use the following SELECT statement to find rows into which invalid ENUM values were assigned:

    mysql> SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE enum_col=0;
  • The index of the NULL value is NULL.

For example, a column specified as ENUM("one", "two", "three") can have any of the values shown in the following table. The index of each value is also shown:

Value

Index

NULL

NULL

""

0

"one"

1

"two"

2

"three"

3

An enumeration can have a maximum of 65535 elements.

Lettercase is irrelevant when you assign values to an ENUM column. However, values retrieved from the column later have lettercase matching the values that were used to specify the allowable values at table creation time.

If you retrieve an ENUM in a numeric context, the column value’s index is returned. For example, you can retrieve numeric values from an ENUM column like this:

mysql> SELECT enum_col+0 FROM tbl_name;

If you store a number into an ENUM, the number is treated as an index, and the value stored is the enumeration member with that index. (However, this will not work with LOAD DATA, which treats all input as strings.)

ENUM values are sorted according to the order in which the enumeration members were listed in the column specification. (In other words, ENUM values are sorted according to their index numbers.) For example, "a" sorts before "b" for ENUM("a", "b"), but "b" sorts before "a" for ENUM("b", "a"). The empty string sorts before non-empty strings, and NULL values sort before all other enumeration values.

If you want to get all possible values for an ENUM column, you should use SHOW COLUMNS FROM table_name LIKE enum_column_name and parse the ENUM definition in the second column.

The SET type

A SET is a string object that can have zero or more values, each of which must be chosen from a list of allowed values specified when the table is created. SET column values that consist of multiple set members are specified with members separated by commas (,). A consequence of this is that SET member values cannot themselves contain commas.

For example, a column specified as SET("one", "two") NOT NULL can have any of these values:

""
"one"
"two"
"one,two"

A SET can have a maximum of 64 different members.

MySQL stores SET values numerically, with the low-order bit of the stored value corresponding to the first set member. If you retrieve a SET value in a numeric context, the value retrieved has bits set corresponding to the set members that make up the column value. For example, you can retrieve numeric values from a SET column like this:

mysql> SELECT set_col+0 FROM tbl_name;

If a number is stored into a SET column, the bits that are set in the binary representation of the number determine the set members in the column value. Suppose a column is specified as SET("a","b","c","d"). Then the members have the following bit values:

SET member

Decimal value

Binary value

a

1

0001

b

2

0010

c

4

0100

d

8

1000

If you assign a value of 9 to this column, that is 1001 in binary, so the first and fourth SET value members "a" and "d" are selected and the resulting value is "a,d".

For a value containing more than one SET element, it does not matter what order the elements are listed in when you insert the value. It also does not matter how many times a given element is listed in the value. When the value is retrieved later, each element in the value will appear once, with elements listed according to the order in which they were specified at table creation time. For example, if a column is specified as SET("a","b","c","d"), "a,d", "d,a", and "d,a,a,d,d" will all appear as "a,d" when retrieved.

If you set a SET column to an unsupported value, the value will be ignored.

SET values are sorted numerically. NULL values sort before non-NULL SET values.

Normally, you perform a SELECT on a SET column using the LIKE operator or the FIND_IN_SET( ) function:

mysql> SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE set_col LIKE '%value%';
mysql> SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE FIND_IN_SET('value',set_col)>0;

But the following will also work:

mysql> SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE set_col = 'val1,val2';
mysql> SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE set_col & 1;

The first of these statements looks for an exact match. The second looks for values containing the first set member.

If you want to get all possible values for a SET column, you should use SHOW COLUMNS FROM table_name LIKE set_column_name and parse the SET definition in the second column.

Choosing the Right Type for a Column

For the most efficient use of storage, try to use the most precise type in all cases. For example, if an integer column will be used for values in the range between 1 and 99999, MEDIUMINT UNSIGNED is the best type.

Accurate representation of monetary values is a common problem. In MySQL, you should use the DECIMAL type. This is stored as a string, so no loss of accuracy should occur. If accuracy is not too important, the DOUBLE type may also be good enough.

For high precision, you can always convert to a fixed-point type stored in a BIGINT. This allows you to do all calculations with integers and convert results back to floating-point values only when necessary.

Using Column Types from Other Database Engines

To make it easier to use code written for SQL implementations from other vendors, MySQL maps column types as shown in the following table. These mappings make it easier to move table definitions from other database engines to MySQL:

Other vendor type

MySQL type

BINARY(NUM)

CHAR(NUM) BINARY

CHAR VARYING(NUM)

VARCHAR(NUM)

FLOAT4

FLOAT

FLOAT8

DOUBLE

INT1

TINYINT

INT2

SMALLINT

INT3

MEDIUMINT

INT4

INT

INT8

BIGINT

LONG VARBINARY

MEDIUMBLOB

LONG VARCHAR

MEDIUMTEXT

MIDDLEINT

MEDIUMINT

VARBINARY(NUM)

VARCHAR(NUM) BINARY

Column type mapping occurs at table creation time. If you create a table with types used by other vendors and then issue a DESCRIBE tbl_name statement, MySQL reports the table structure using the equivalent MySQL types.

Column Type Storage Requirements

The storage requirements for each of the column types supported by MySQL are listed in the following sections.

Storage requirements for numeric types

Column type

Storage required

TINYINT

1 byte

SMALLINT

2 bytes

MEDIUMINT

3 bytes

INT

4 bytes

INTEGER

4 bytes

BIGINT

8 bytes

FLOAT(X)

4 if X <= 24 or 8 if 25 <= X <= 53

FLOAT

4 bytes

DOUBLE

8 bytes

DOUBLE PRECISION

8 bytes

REAL

8 bytes

DECIMAL(M,D)

M+2 bytes if D > 0, M+1 bytes if D = 0 (D+2, if M < D)

NUMERIC(M,D)

M+2 bytes if D > 0, M+1 bytes if D = 0 (D+2, if M < D)

Storage requirements for date and time types

Column type

Storage required

DATE

3 bytes

DATETIME

8 bytes

TIMESTAMP

4 bytes

TIME

3 bytes

YEAR

1 byte

Storage requirements for string types

Column type

Storage required

CHAR(M)

M bytes, 1 <= M <= 255

VARCHAR(M)

L+1 bytes, where L <= M and 1 <= M <= 255

TINYBLOB, TINYTEXT

L+1 bytes, where L < 2^8

BLOB, TEXT

L+2 bytes, where L < 2^16

MEDIUMBLOB, MEDIUMTEXT

L+3 bytes, where L < 2^24

LONGBLOB, LONGTEXT

L+4 bytes, where L < 2^32

ENUM('value1', 'value2',...)

1 or 2 bytes, depending on the number of enumeration values (65535 values maximum)

SET('value1', 'value2',...)

1, 2, 3, 4, or 8 bytes, depending on the number of set members (64 members maximum)

VARCHAR and the BLOB and TEXT types are variable-length types, for which the storage requirements depend on the actual length of column values (represented by L in the preceding table), rather than on the type’s maximum possible size. For example, a VARCHAR(10) column can hold a string with a maximum length of 10 characters. The actual storage required is the length of the string (L), plus 1 byte to record the length of the string. For the string 'abcd', L is 4 and the storage requirement is 5 bytes.

The BLOB and TEXT types require 1, 2, 3, or 4 bytes to record the length of the column value, depending on the maximum possible length of the type. See Section 6.2.3.2.

If a table includes any variable-length column types, the record format will also be variable-length. Note that when a table is created, MySQL may, under certain conditions, change a column from a variable-length type to a fixed-length type, or vice versa. See Section 6.5.3.1.

The size of an ENUM object is determined by the number of different enumeration values. One byte is used for enumerations with up to 255 possible values. Two bytes are used for enumerations with up to 65535 values. See Section 6.2.3.3.

The size of a SET object is determined by the number of different set members. If the set size is N, the object occupies (N+7)/8 bytes, rounded up to 1, 2, 3, 4, or 8 bytes. A SET can have a maximum of 64 members. See Section 6.2.3.4.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required