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11.4.4. The ENUM Type

An ENUM is a string object with a value chosen from a list of allowed values that are enumerated explicitly in the column specification at table creation time.

The value may also be the empty string ('') or NULL under certain circumstances:

  • If you insert an invalid value into an ENUM (that is, a string not present in the list of allowed values), the empty string is inserted instead as a special error value. This string can be distinguished from a “normal” empty string by the fact that this string has the numerical value 0. More about this later.

    If strict SQL mode is enabled, attempts to insert invalid ENUM values result in an error.

  • If an ENUM column is declared to allow NULL, the NULL value is a legal value for the column, and the default value is NULL. If an ENUM column is declared NOT NULL, its default value is the first element of the list of allowed values.

Each enumeration value has an index:

  • Values from the list of allowable elements in the column specification are numbered beginning with 1.

  • The index value of the empty string error value is 0. This means that you can use the following SELECT statement to find rows into which invalid ENUM values were assigned:

    mysql> SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE enum_col=0;
  • The index of the NULL value is NULL.

  • The term “index” here refers only to position within the list of enumeration values. It has nothing to do with table indexes.

For example, a column specified as ENUM('one', 'two', 'three') can have any of the values shown here. The index of each value is also shown:

Value Index
'' 0
'one' 1
'two' 2
'three' 3

An enumeration can have a maximum of 65,535 elements.

Trailing spaces are automatically deleted from ENUM member values in the table definition when a table is created.

When retrieved, values stored into an ENUM column are displayed using the lettercase that was used in the column definition. Note that ENUM columns can be assigned a character set and collation. For binary or case-sensitive collations, lettercase is taken into account when assigning values to the column.

If you retrieve an ENUM value in a numeric context, the column value's index is returned. For example, you can retrieve numeric values from an ENUM column like this:

mysql> SELECT enum_col+0 FROM tbl_name;

If you store a number into an ENUM column, the number is treated as an index, and the value stored is the enumeration member with that index. (However, this does not work with LOAD DATA, which treats all input as strings.) It is not advisable to define an ENUM column with enumeration values that look like numbers, because this can easily become confusing. For example, the following column has enumeration members with string values of '0', '1', and '2', but numeric index values of 1, 2, and 3:

numbers ENUM('0','1','2')

ENUM values are sorted according to the order in which the enumeration members were listed in the column specification. (In other words, ENUM values are sorted according to their index numbers.) For example, 'a' sorts before 'b' for ENUM('a', 'b'), but 'b' sorts before 'a' for ENUM('b', 'a'). The empty string sorts before non-empty strings, and NULL values sort before all other enumeration values. To prevent unexpected results, specify the ENUM list in alphabetical order. You can also use GROUP BY CAST(col AS CHAR) or GROUP BY CONCAT(col) to make sure that the column is sorted lexically rather than by index number.

If you want to determine all possible values for an ENUM column, use SHOW COLUMNS FROM tbl_name LIKE enum_col and parse the ENUM definition in the Type column of the output.

  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire