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SQL General Data Types

A data type defines what kind of value a column can contain.

SQL General Data Types

Each column in a database table is required to have a name and a data type.

SQL developers have to decide what types of data will be stored inside each and every table column when creating a SQL table. The data type is a label and a guideline for SQL to understand what type of data is expected inside of each column, and it also identifies how SQL will interact with the stored data.

The following table lists the general data types in SQL:

Data type Description
CHARACTER(n) Character string. Fixed-length n
Character string. Variable length. Maximum length n
BINARY(n) Binary string. Fixed-length n
BOOLEAN Stores TRUE or FALSE values
Binary string. Variable length. Maximum length n
INTEGER(p) Integer numerical (no decimal). Precision p
SMALLINT Integer numerical (no decimal). Precision 5
INTEGER Integer numerical (no decimal). Precision 10
BIGINT Integer numerical (no decimal). Precision 19
DECIMAL(p,s) Exact numerical, precision p, scale s. Example: decimal(5,2) is a number that has 3 digits before the decimal and 2 digits after the decimal
NUMERIC(p,s) Exact numerical, precision p, scale s. (Same as DECIMAL)
FLOAT(p) Approximate numerical, mantissa precision p. A floating number in base 10 exponential notation. The size argument for this type consists of a single number specifying the minimum precision
REAL Approximate numerical, mantissa precision 7
FLOAT Approximate numerical, mantissa precision 16
DOUBLE PRECISION Approximate numerical, mantissa precision 16
DATE Stores year, month, and day values
TIME Stores hour, minute, and second values
TIMESTAMP Stores year, month, day, hour, minute, and second values
INTERVAL Composed of a number of integer fields, representing a period of time, depending on the type of interval
ARRAY A set-length and ordered collection of elements
MULTISET A variable-length and unordered collection of elements
XML Stores XML data

SQL Data Type Quick Reference

However, different databases offer different choices for the data type definition.

The following table shows some of the common names of data types between the various database platforms:

Data type Access SQLServer Oracle MySQL PostgreSQL
boolean Yes/No Bit Byte N/A Boolean
integer Number (integer) Int Number Int
float Number (single) Float
Number Float Numeric
currency Currency Money N/A N/A Money
string (fixed) N/A Char Char Char Char
string (variable) Text (<256)
Memo (65k+)
Varchar Varchar
Varchar Varchar
binary object OLE Object Memo Binary (fixed up to 8K)
Varbinary (<8K)
Image (<2GB)

Note: Data types might have different names in different database. And even if the name is the same, the size and other details may be different! Always check the documentation!