Is CHAR a Data Type?


Larry Thompson

The CHAR data type is a fundamental concept in programming and databases. It is used to store fixed-length character strings in various programming languages such as SQL, C, and Java. In this article, we will explore the CHAR data type in detail, including its properties, usage, and examples.

Properties of the CHAR Data Type

The CHAR data type has the following properties:

  • Fixed Length: Unlike variable-length data types such as VARCHAR or TEXT, the CHAR data type has a fixed length. This means that each value stored in a CHAR column occupies the same amount of space regardless of the actual length of the string.
  • Data Integrity: Since CHAR columns have a fixed length, they ensure data integrity by padding or truncating strings to fit the specified length.

    If a shorter string is assigned to a CHAR column, it gets padded with spaces to match the defined length. On the other hand, if a longer string is assigned, it gets truncated to fit within the specified length.

  • Faster Retrieval: Retrieving data from a CHAR-type column can be faster than from variable-length columns since fixed-length columns allow for simpler storage and retrieval algorithms.

Usage of CHAR Data Type

The primary use of the CHAR data type is for storing fixed-length character strings. It is commonly used when you know that all values for a particular column will be of equal length. For example:

CREATE TABLE Customers (
  CustomerID CHAR(10),
  FirstName CHAR(50),
  LastName CHAR(50)

In the above example, the CustomerID column has a fixed length of 10 characters, while the FirstName and LastName columns have a fixed length of 50 characters each.


Let’s consider a few examples to understand the usage of the CHAR data type better:

  • Example 1:
  •     DECLARE @name CHAR(20);
        SET @name = 'John Doe';
        SELECT @name;

    In this example, the string ‘John Doe’ is assigned to the @name variable. Since its length is less than 20 characters, it gets padded with spaces to match the specified length.

  • Example 2:
  •     INSERT INTO Customers (CustomerID, FirstName, LastName)
        VALUES ('1234', 'Jane', 'Smith');

    In this example, we insert a new row into the Customers table. The values for the CustomerID, FirstName, and LastName columns are all fixed-length strings. If any value exceeds its defined length, it will be automatically truncated.

  • Example 3:
  •     SELECT CustomerID, FirstName, LastName
        FROM Customers
        WHERE CustomerID = '5678';

    This example demonstrates a typical query using a fixed-length column in a WHERE clause. The query selects the records from the Customers table where the CustomerID is ‘5678’. Since the CustomerID column is of the CHAR data type, it is essential to provide the exact length of the string while querying.


In conclusion, the CHAR data type is a fixed-length character string storage option used in programming and databases. It ensures data integrity and allows for faster retrieval.

By understanding its properties and appropriate usage, you can effectively utilize the CHAR data type in your programming endeavors.

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