Is There a Data Type for Arrays in SQL?


Angela Bailey

In SQL, there is no specific data type for arrays like in some other programming languages. However, SQL provides alternative ways to work with collections of values that can be used as an array-like structure. Let’s explore these options below:

Using a VARCHAR or TEXT column

If you need to store a variable number of values in a single column, you can use a VARCHAR or TEXT column. You can separate the values using a delimiter like comma (,) or semicolon (;) and then use string manipulation functions to work with the values. Here’s an example:

CREATE TABLE my_table (
  my_array VARCHAR(255)

INSERT INTO my_table (my_array) VALUES ('value1,value2,value3');

SELECT * FROM my_table;

In this example, we store multiple values in the my_array column separated by commas. To retrieve individual values, you can use string functions like SUBSTRING_INDEX() or REGEXP_SUBSTR(). However, this approach has limitations and may not be suitable for complex operations on arrays.

Using a separate table

An alternative approach is to create a separate table for your array-like structure. This table would have two columns – one for the value and another for its associated identifier. For example:

CREATE TABLE my_array_table (
  value VARCHAR(255)

You can then insert multiple rows into this table, each representing an element of your “array”. The id column acts as the identifier for each element.

INSERT INTO my_array_table (id, value) VALUES
  (1, 'value1'),
  (2, 'value2'),
  (3, 'value3');

This approach allows you to perform various operations on the array-like structure using SQL queries. For example, you can retrieve all values associated with a particular identifier:

SELECT value FROM my_array_table WHERE id = 2;

Using JSON data type

If your database supports JSON data type (e.g., MySQL 5.7+ or PostgreSQL), you can use it to store array-like structures. The JSON data type allows you to store a collection of values as a single column and provides powerful functions for manipulating the data.

CREATE TABLE my_json_table (
  my_array JSON

INSERT INTO my_json_table (id, my_array) VALUES
  (1, '[ "value1", "value2", "value3" ]');

SELECT * FROM my_json_table;

In this example, we store an array of values as a JSON string in the my_array column. You can use JSON functions like JSON_ARRAY(), JSON_EXTRACT(), and JSON_ARRAY_APPEND() to manipulate the array elements.


In SQL, there isn’t a dedicated data type for arrays, but you can still work with collections of values using alternative approaches like VARCHAR/TEXT columns with delimiters, separate tables for each element, or the JSON data type. Each method has its own advantages and limitations depending on your specific use case. Choose the approach that best suits your needs and database capabilities.

Note: It’s important to consider the performance implications of storing arrays in SQL databases. If your application heavily relies on array-like operations, you might want to consider using a NoSQL database or exploring specialized array storage solutions.

Discord Server - Web Server - Private Server - DNS Server - Object-Oriented Programming - Scripting - Data Types - Data Structures

Privacy Policy