What Is the Timestamp Data Type?


Scott Campbell

When working with databases, it is essential to have a data type that can store timestamps accurately. This is where the timestamp data type comes into play. The timestamp data type is used to store date and time information in a database table.

The timestamp data type is widely supported in various database management systems (DBMS) such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and SQL Server. It allows you to store precise moments in time with both date and time components.

Why use the timestamp data type?

The timestamp data type offers several advantages over other date and time data types. One of the main benefits is its ability to accurately record events down to the millisecond level. This level of precision is crucial when dealing with applications that require high accuracy timestamps, such as financial systems or real-time analytics.

Additionally, the timestamp data type provides built-in functions for performing calculations and manipulations on dates and times. These functions allow you to extract specific components like year, month, day, hour, minute, or second from a timestamp value. This makes it easier to perform complex operations on your data without having to write custom code.

Storing timestamps

To store timestamps in a database table column, you need to define the column with the timestamp data type. Here’s an example of how you can create a table with a column of the timestamp data type in SQL:

  event_id INT PRIMARY KEY,
  event_name VARCHAR(50),
  event_timestamp TIMESTAMP

In this example, we create a table called “events” with three columns: “event_id”, “event_name”, and “event_timestamp”. The “event_timestamp” column is defined as the timestamp data type.

When inserting values into this table, you can provide timestamp values using various formats depending on your DBMS. For example:

INSERT INTO events (event_id, event_name, event_timestamp)
VALUES (1, 'Event 1', '2022-01-01 12:34:56');

Working with timestamps

Once you have stored timestamp values in your database, you can perform various operations on them. Let’s explore some common use cases:

1. Retrieving current timestamp: You can use the current_timestamp() function to retrieve the current date and time as a timestamp value. For example:

SELECT current_timestamp();

This will return the current timestamp value.

2. Comparing timestamps: You can compare two timestamp values using comparison operators such as greater than (>), less than (<), equal to (=), etc. This allows you to check if one event occurred before or after another event. For example:

SELECT * FROM events WHERE event_timestamp > ‘2022-01-01 00:00:00’;

This query will return all events that occurred after January 1st, 2022.

3. Manipulating timestamps: Timestamps can be manipulated using built-in functions like date_add(), date_sub(), extract(), etc.

These functions allow you to add or subtract intervals from a timestamp or extract specific components like year or month. For example:

SELECT date_add(event_timestamp, INTERVAL 1 DAY) AS next_day FROM events;

This query will add one day to each event’s timestamp and return the result as “next_day”.


In conclusion, the timestamp data type is a powerful tool for storing and working with date and time information in databases. Its ability to store precise moments in time with high accuracy makes it ideal for applications that require accurate timestamps.

By using the built-in functions provided by your DBMS, you can easily manipulate timestamps and perform complex calculations. So, the next time you need to store timestamps in your database, consider using the timestamp data type for optimal accuracy and functionality.

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