When Would You Use the Nvarchar Data Type Within a Table?


Angela Bailey

The NVARCHAR data type is commonly used in database tables to store variable-length Unicode character strings. It is particularly useful when dealing with multilingual data or when you need to support a wide range of special characters. In this article, we will explore various scenarios where the NVARCHAR data type proves valuable.

1. Storing Multilingual Data

One of the primary reasons to use the NVARCHAR data type is when you need to store data in multiple languages within a single table. Unlike the VARCHAR data type, which only supports ASCII characters, NVARCHAR can handle Unicode characters that represent various languages including Chinese, Arabic, Russian, and more.

Note: When using the NVARCHAR data type, keep in mind that it requires more storage space compared to VARCHAR. This is because Unicode characters require two bytes per character instead of one byte for ASCII characters.

2. Handling Special Characters

If your application deals with special characters such as symbols or emoticons, then the NVARCHAR data type becomes essential. For instance, if you have a chat application that allows users to send messages with emojis or other non-standard characters, storing those messages in an NVARCHAR column ensures that these characters are properly preserved without any loss of information.

3. Sorting and Searching International Data

The NVARCHAR data type also comes in handy when you need to sort or search for international data accurately. Sorting strings based on their alphabetical order can be challenging when dealing with different languages and character sets. By utilizing the NVARCHAR data type, you ensure that the sorting and searching algorithms take into account the correct Unicode rules for each language.

4. Compatibility with Legacy Systems

If you are working with legacy systems or databases that were built before Unicode support became prevalent, it is highly likely that these systems use non-Unicode character sets such as ASCII or ISO-8859-1. In such cases, using the NVARCHAR data type allows you to seamlessly integrate new data containing Unicode characters into the existing infrastructure.


The NVARCHAR data type provides great flexibility when it comes to handling multilingual and special character data within a database table. Whether you need to store data in multiple languages, preserve special characters, sort international data accurately, or ensure compatibility with legacy systems, NVARCHAR proves to be a reliable choice.

To sum up, using the NVARCHAR data type is crucial when dealing with:

  • Multilingual data
  • Special characters
  • Sorting and searching international data
  • Compatibility with legacy systems

Note: It’s important to consider the potential storage space requirements of using the NVARCHAR data type compared to VARCHAR.

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