Is SQL a Programming Language or Scripting Language?


Larry Thompson

Is SQL a Programming Language or Scripting Language?

When it comes to working with databases, one of the most common languages used is SQL (Structured Query Language). However, there is often confusion about whether SQL is a programming language or a scripting language. In this article, we will explore this question in depth and shed light on the nature of SQL.

What is a Programming Language?

Before we dive into the debate, let’s first understand what exactly constitutes a programming language. A programming language is a formal language that enables humans to communicate instructions to a computer. It consists of a set of rules and syntax that allows programmers to write algorithms and create software.

What is a Scripting Language?

A scripting language, on the other hand, is often used to automate tasks or perform specific functions within an application. It typically has less strict syntax requirements and may be interpreted on-the-fly rather than being compiled into machine code like traditional programming languages.

The Nature of SQL

Now that we have clarified the definitions, let’s examine where SQL fits in. SQL is primarily used for managing and manipulating data within databases. It provides commands for creating, modifying, and querying data stored in relational database management systems (RDBMS).

Is SQL Declarative or Procedural?

In terms of its nature, SQL can be considered both declarative and procedural.

The declarative aspect refers to the fact that programmers define what they want to achieve without specifying how to do it. Instead of writing step-by-step instructions like in procedural languages, SQL focuses on expressing queries using statements such as SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE.

SQL as a Data Manipulation Language (DML)

SQL is often categorized as a Data Manipulation Language (DML) since it allows users to retrieve, update, and delete data from databases. This aspect of SQL aligns it more closely with scripting languages that are used to automate tasks involving data manipulation.

SQL as a Data Definition Language (DDL)

Additionally, SQL can also act as a Data Definition Language (DDL). It provides commands for creating and modifying the structure of databases, defining tables and their relationships, and specifying constraints. This characteristic of SQL brings it closer to traditional programming languages where developers define the structure and behavior of software systems.


In conclusion, SQL can be seen as a hybrid language that possesses traits of both programming and scripting languages. Its primary focus on data management aligns it more closely with scripting languages, while its ability to define database structures reflects characteristics of traditional programming languages.

Ultimately, whether SQL is classified purely as a programming language or scripting language may vary depending on the context in which it is used. Regardless of its classification, SQL remains an indispensable tool for working with databases and extracting meaningful insights from vast amounts of data.

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