What Is Character Varying Data Type?


Angela Bailey

A crucial aspect of database design is selecting the appropriate data types for storing different types of information. One such data type is character varying, which is commonly used to store text strings in a database table.

What is Character Varying?

In simple terms, character varying is a data type that allows you to store variable-length character strings. The varying part means that the length of the string can vary within a specified limit, making it a flexible choice for storing textual data.

How to Use Character Varying?

To use the character varying data type in your database table, you need to define it when creating or altering the table’s structure. Here’s an example:

    id serial PRIMARY KEY,
    name character varying(50),
    email character varying(100)

In this example, we have created a table called “users” with three columns: “id,” “name,” and “email.” The “name” and “email” columns are defined as character varying data types with maximum lengths of 50 and 100 characters, respectively.

The length specified in parentheses after the data type determines the maximum number of characters that can be stored in the column. If you try to insert a string longer than the specified limit, it will be truncated to fit within that limit.

Advantages of Character Varying:

  • Flexibility: Unlike fixed-length character types like char, character varying allows you to store strings of variable lengths efficiently.
  • Space Optimization: Since character varying only uses as much storage space as required by the data, it helps optimize your database’s storage efficiency.
  • Easy to Work With: Character varying data type is easy to work with in database queries and doesn’t require additional padding or trimming operations like fixed-length types.


While character varying has its advantages, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Performance Impact: Storing variable-length strings can have a slight impact on performance compared to fixed-length types. However, this impact is usually negligible unless you are dealing with extremely large tables or complex queries.
  • Data Validation: Since the length of character varying strings can vary, you need to ensure proper validation of the data before inserting it into the database to avoid any unexpected truncation or errors.


The character varying data type provides a flexible and efficient way to store variable-length text strings in your database. By understanding its usage and advantages, you can make informed decisions when designing your database schema and improve the overall usability and efficiency of your application.

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