Which Data Type Can Be Used With ENUM?


Heather Bennett

When working with databases, it is important to understand the different data types that can be used to store information. One such data type is ENUM, which stands for enumerated type.

What is ENUM?

ENUM is a data type in SQL that allows you to define a list of possible values for a column. This means that the column can only store one of the values specified in the list, or it can be NULL if allowed.

Using ENUM

To use ENUM, you need to specify the possible values it can hold when creating the table. For example:

  name VARCHAR(50),
  status ENUM('active', 'inactive', 'pending')

In this example, the “status” column in the “users” table can only hold one of three values: ‘active’, ‘inactive’, or ‘pending’.

Benefits of Using ENUM

  • Clarity: By using ENUM, you make it clear what values are allowed for a particular column. This improves readability and reduces confusion when working with the database.
  • Data Integrity: Since ENUM restricts the possible values that can be stored in a column, it helps maintain data integrity by preventing invalid or unexpected values.
  • Query Performance: ENUM values are stored internally as integers, which makes querying and indexing faster compared to using strings or other data types.

Limitations of ENUM

Limited Flexibility:

While ENUM provides advantages, it also has some limitations:

  • Altering ENUM Values: Modifying the list of allowed values for an ENUM column can be a complex task, especially if the table already contains data. It often requires altering the table structure and updating the existing data.
  • Storage Space: ENUM values are stored as integers, but they still require storage space.

    If you have a large number of distinct values, it may not be efficient to use ENUM.

  • Portability: The use of ENUM is not standardized across different database systems. If you plan to migrate your database to a different system in the future, compatibility issues may arise.


In conclusion, ENUM is a useful data type in SQL that allows you to define a list of possible values for a column. It provides clarity, data integrity, and improved query performance. However, it also has limitations in terms of flexibility, storage space requirements, and portability.

If you decide to use ENUM in your database design, make sure to carefully consider its advantages and limitations based on your specific requirements and future plans.

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