What Is Enum Data Type in Database?


Larry Thompson

An enum data type in a database is a type that consists of a set of predefined values. It allows you to define a column in a table that can only store one of the specified values. This data type is commonly used when you have a fixed set of values that a column can take.

Creating an Enum Data Type

To create an enum data type in a database, you need to specify the allowed values for the column. Let’s say we want to create an enum data type for the “gender” column in a table:

CREATE TABLE employees (
    id INT,
    name VARCHAR(50),
    gender ENUM('male', 'female', 'other')

In this example, the “gender” column can only store one of the three specified values: ‘male’, ‘female’, or ‘other’.

Querying Enum Values

You can query data from an enum column just like any other column in a database. For example, if you want to retrieve all male employees from the “employees” table:

SELECT * FROM employees WHERE gender = 'male';

This query will return all rows where the “gender” column has the value ‘male’.

Benefits of Using Enum Data Type

The enum data type offers several benefits:

  • Validation: Enum data types provide built-in validation since they only allow specific values. This ensures that only valid values are stored in the database.
  • Readability: Enum values are human-readable, making it easier to understand and work with the data.
  • Data Integrity: Using an enum data type helps maintain data integrity by preventing the insertion of invalid values.


While enum data types can be useful, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Size Limitation: Enum data types typically have a limit on the number of allowed values. It’s important to consider this limitation when designing your database schema.
  • Modifying Enum Values: Modifying enum values can be challenging, especially if the column is already populated with data.

    It may require altering the table structure and updating existing records.

  • Portability: Enum data types are not universally supported across all database systems. If you plan to switch databases in the future, ensure that enum functionality is available.

In conclusion, an enum data type in a database allows you to define a column that can only store certain predefined values. It offers benefits such as validation, readability, and data integrity. However, it’s important to consider limitations and portability when using enum data types in your database schema.

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