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1.0 (stable)
Enum Data Type
Name Description
enum Dictionary Encoding representing all possible string values of a column.

The enum type represents a dictionary data structure with all possible unique values of a column. For example, a column storing the days of the week can be an enum holding all possible days. Enums are particularly interesting for string columns with low cardinality (i.e., fewer distinct values). This is because the column only stores a numerical reference to the string in the enum dictionary, resulting in immense savings in disk storage and faster query performance.

Enum Definition

Enum types are created from either a hardcoded set of values or from a select statement that returns a single column of VARCHARs. The set of values in the select statement will be deduplicated, but if the enum is created from a hardcoded set there may not be any duplicates.

Create enum using hardcoded values:

CREATE TYPE enum_name AS ENUM ([value_1, value_2,...]);

Create enum using a SELECT statement that returns a single column of VARCHARs:

CREATE TYPE enum_name AS ENUM (select_expression);

For example:

Creates new user defined type 'mood' as an enum:

CREATE TYPE mood AS ENUM ('sad', 'ok', 'happy');

This will fail since the mood type already exists:

CREATE TYPE mood AS ENUM ('sad', 'ok', 'happy', 'anxious');

This will fail since enums cannot hold NULL values:

CREATE TYPE breed AS ENUM ('maltese', NULL);

This will fail since enum values must be unique:

CREATE TYPE breed AS ENUM ('maltese', 'maltese');

Create an enum from a select statement. First create an example table of values:

    SELECT 'duck'  AS my_varchar UNION ALL
    SELECT 'duck'  AS my_varchar UNION ALL
    SELECT 'goose' AS my_varchar;

Create an enum using the unique string values in the my_varchar column:

CREATE TYPE birds AS ENUM (SELECT my_varchar FROM my_inputs);

Show the available values in the birds enum using the enum_range function:

SELECT enum_range(NULL::birds) AS my_enum_range;
[duck, goose]

Enum Usage

After an enum has been created, it can be used anywhere a standard built-in type is used. For example, we can create a table with a column that references the enum.

Creates a table person, with attributes name (string type) and current_mood (mood type):

    name TEXT,
    current_mood mood

Inserts tuples in the person table:

VALUES ('Pedro', 'happy'), ('Mark', NULL), ('Pagliacci', 'sad'), ('Mr. Mackey', 'ok');

The following query will fail since the mood type does not have quackity-quack value.

VALUES ('Hannes', 'quackity-quack');

The string sad is cast to the type mood, returning a numerical reference value. This makes the comparison a numerical comparison instead of a string comparison.

FROM person
WHERE current_mood = 'sad';
name current_mood
Pagliacci sad

If you are importing data from a file, you can create an enum for a VARCHAR column before importing. Given this, the following subquery selects automatically selects only distinct values:

CREATE TYPE mood AS ENUM (SELECT mood FROM 'path/to/file.csv');

Then you can create a table with the enum type and import using any data import statement:

CREATE TABLE person (name TEXT, current_mood mood);
COPY person FROM 'path/to/file.csv';

Enums vs. Strings

DuckDB enums are automatically cast to VARCHAR types whenever necessary. This characteristic allows for enum columns to be used in any VARCHAR function. In addition, it also allows for comparisons between different enum columns, or an enum and a VARCHAR column.

For example:

Regexp_matches is a function that takes a VARCHAR, hence current_mood is cast to VARCHAR:

SELECT regexp_matches(current_mood, '.*a.*') AS contains_a
FROM person;

Create a new mood and table:

CREATE TYPE new_mood AS ENUM ('happy', 'anxious');
CREATE TABLE person_2 (
    name text,
    current_mood mood,
    future_mood new_mood,
    past_mood VARCHAR

Since the current_mood and future_mood columns are constructed on different enum types, DuckDB will cast both enums to strings and perform a string comparison:

FROM person_2
WHERE current_mood = future_mood;

When comparing the past_mood column (string), DuckDB will cast the current_mood enum to VARCHAR and perform a string comparison:

FROM person_2
WHERE current_mood = past_mood;

Enum Removal

Enum types are stored in the catalog, and a catalog dependency is added to each table that uses them. It is possible to drop an enum from the catalog using the following command:

DROP TYPE enum_name;

Currently, it is possible to drop enums that are used in tables without affecting the tables.

Warning This behavior of the enum removal feature is subject to change. In future releases, it is expected that any dependent columns must be removed before dropping the enum, or the enum must be dropped with the additional CASCADE parameter.

Comparison of Enums

Enum values are compared according to their order in the enum's definition. For example:

CREATE TYPE mood AS ENUM ('sad', 'ok', 'happy');
SELECT 'sad'::mood < 'ok'::mood AS comp;
SELECT unnest(['ok'::mood, 'happy'::mood, 'sad'::mood]) AS m


See Enum Functions.

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Last modified: 2024-07-10