Is Array a Data Type in SQL?


Angela Bailey

Is Array a Data Type in SQL?

In SQL, arrays are not a built-in data type. Unlike other programming languages such as JavaScript or Python, SQL does not have direct support for arrays.

However, this does not mean that you cannot work with arrays in SQL. There are alternative ways to handle array-like structures within the database.

Using Tables to Represent Arrays

One common approach to simulate arrays in SQL is by using tables. You can create a table with multiple columns, where each column represents an element of the array. For example, consider an array of names:

  • Table: Names
    • name1
    • name2
    • name3

In this case, the “Names” table has three columns (name1, name2, and name3), representing the elements of the array.

Working with Array-like Structures

If you need to perform operations on these array-like structures, you can use SQL functions and operators to manipulate and query the data effectively.

Selecting Array Elements:

To select specific elements from an “array,” you can use column names or aliases:

  • SELECT name1 FROM Names;
  • SELECT name1 AS first_name, name2 AS second_name FROM Names;

Adding Elements to an Array:

To add elements to your “array,” you can insert rows into the table:

  • INSERT INTO Names (name1, name2) VALUES ('new_name1', 'new_name2');

Updating Array Elements:

To update specific elements of your “array,” you can use the UPDATE statement:

  • UPDATE Names SET name1 = 'updated_name1' WHERE name2 = 'name2';

Deleting Array Elements:

To delete specific elements from your “array,” you can use the DELETE statement:

  • DELETE FROM Names WHERE name1 = 'name1';

Array-like Structures in SQL Dialects

Although arrays are not a native data type in SQL, some SQL dialects provide specific support for arrays. For example, PostgreSQL offers an array data type that allows you to store and manipulate arrays directly.

PostgreSQL Array Example:

    names_arr text[]

INSERT INTO Names (names_arr) VALUES (ARRAY['name1', 'name2', 'name3']);

SELECT unnest(names_arr) FROM Names;

In this example, the “names_arr” column is of type text[], representing an array of text values.


While arrays are not a standard data type in SQL, you can work with array-like structures by using tables and leveraging SQL functions and operators. Additionally, some SQL dialects offer native support for arrays, making it even easier to work with this data structure.

If you find yourself frequently needing to work with arrays or complex data structures, consider exploring databases that have built-in support for such requirements.

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