What Is Enum Data Type in SQL?


Larry Thompson

What Is Enum Data Type in SQL?

In SQL, the ENUM data type is used to create a list of predefined values that a column can take. It allows you to specify a set of possible values for a column, and the column can only store one of those values.

Creating an ENUM Data Type

To create an ENUM data type in SQL, you need to specify the allowed values within parentheses after the ENUM keyword. For example:

CREATE TABLE employees (
    id INT,
    name VARCHAR(50),
    gender ENUM('Male', 'Female')

In this example, the ‘gender’ column is defined as an ENUM data type with two allowed values: ‘Male’ and ‘Female’.

Benefits of Using ENUM Data Type

The ENUM data type offers several advantages:

  • Readability: By using an ENUM data type, you can improve the readability of your code by explicitly defining the allowed values for a column.
  • Data Integrity: The use of an ENUM data type ensures that only valid values are stored in the column. Any attempt to insert an invalid value will result in an error.
  • Storage Efficiency: An ENUM data type internally stores each value as an integer, which improves storage efficiency compared to storing string literals directly.

Working with ENUM Values

To insert or update values in a column defined as an ENUM data type, you can use either the string literal or its corresponding integer value. For example:

-- Inserting using string literal
INSERT INTO employees (id, name, gender)
VALUES (1, 'John Doe', 'Male');

-- Inserting using integer value
INSERT INTO employees (id, name, gender)
VALUES (2, 'Jane Smith', 2);

Both of the above statements will insert a row into the ’employees’ table, with the ‘gender’ column set to ‘Male’. In the second statement, we use the integer value 2, which corresponds to the ‘Female’ value in the ENUM definition.

Limitations of ENUM Data Type

Although ENUM data type has its benefits, it also comes with some limitations:

  • Alteration: Modifying an ENUM data type can be a complex task. It typically involves altering the table structure and potentially updating existing data.
  • Portability: The ENUM data type is not supported by all database systems. If you need to migrate your SQL code to a different database system, you may need to change your column definitions.

In Conclusion

The ENUM data type in SQL provides a convenient way to define a set of allowed values for a column. It improves code readability and ensures data integrity. However, it is important to consider its limitations and potential implications when using it in your database design.

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