# 8.15. Arrays

8.15.1. Declaration of Array Types

8.15.2. Array Value Input

8.15.3. Accessing Arrays

8.15.4. Modifying Arrays

8.15.5. Searching in Arrays

8.15.6. Array Input and Output Syntax

PostgreSQL allows columns of a table to be defined as variable-length multidimensional arrays. Arrays of any built-in or user-defined base type, enum type, composite type, range type, or domain can be created.

# 8.15.1. Declaration of Array Types

To illustrate the use of array types, we create this table:

CREATE TABLE sal_emp (
    name            text,
    pay_by_quarter  integer[],
    schedule        text[][]

As shown, an array data type is named by appending square brackets ([]) to the data type name of the array elements. The above command will create a table named sal_emp with a column of type text (name), a one-dimensional array of type integer (pay_by_quarter), which represents the employee's salary by quarter, and a two-dimensional array of text (schedule), which represents the employee's weekly schedule.

The syntax for CREATE TABLE allows the exact size of arrays to be specified, for example:

CREATE TABLE tictactoe (
    squares   integer[3][3]

However, the current implementation ignores any supplied array size limits, i.e., the behavior is the same as for arrays of unspecified length.

The current implementation does not enforce the declared number of dimensions either. Arrays of a particular element type are all considered to be of the same type, regardless of size or number of dimensions. So, declaring the array size or number of dimensions in CREATE TABLE is simply documentation; it does not affect run-time behavior.

An alternative syntax, which conforms to the SQL standard by using the keyword ARRAY, can be used for one-dimensional arrays. pay_by_quarter could have been defined as:

    pay_by_quarter  integer ARRAY[4],

Or, if no array size is to be specified:

    pay_by_quarter  integer ARRAY,

As before, however, PostgreSQL does not enforce the size restriction in any case.

# 8.15.2. Array Value Input

To write an array value as a literal constant, enclose the element values within curly braces and separate them by commas. (If you know C, this is not unlike the C syntax for initializing structures.) You can put double quotes around any element value, and must do so if it contains commas or curly braces. (More details appear below.) Thus, the general format of an array constant is the following:

'{ val1 delim val2 delim ... }'

where delim is the delimiter character for the type, as recorded in its pg_type entry. Among the standard data types provided in the PostgreSQL distribution, all use a comma (,), except for type box which uses a semicolon (;). Each val is either a constant of the array element type, or a subarray. An example of an array constant is:


This constant is a two-dimensional, 3-by-3 array consisting of three subarrays of integers.

To set an element of an array constant to NULL, write NULL for the element value. (Any upper- or lower-case variant of NULL will do.) If you want an actual string value “NULL”, you must put double quotes around it.

(These kinds of array constants are actually only a special case of the generic type constants discussed in Section The constant is initially treated as a string and passed to the array input conversion routine. An explicit type specification might be necessary.)

Now we can show some INSERT statements:

    VALUES ('Bill',
    '{10000, 10000, 10000, 10000}',
    '{{"meeting", "lunch"}, {"training", "presentation"}}');

    VALUES ('Carol',
    '{20000, 25000, 25000, 25000}',
    '{{"breakfast", "consulting"}, {"meeting", "lunch"}}');

The result of the previous two inserts looks like this:

SELECT * FROM sal_emp;
 name  |      pay_by_quarter       |                 schedule
### 8.15.3. Accessing Arrays


 Now, we can run some queries on the table. First, we show how to access a single element of an array. This query retrieves the names of the employees whose pay changed in the second quarter:

SELECT name FROM sal_emp WHERE pay_by_quarter[1] <> pay_by_quarter[2];


# 8.15.4. Modifying Arrays

An array value can be replaced completely:

UPDATE sal_emp SET pay_by_quarter = '{25000,25000,27000,27000}'
    WHERE name = 'Carol';

or using the ARRAY expression syntax:

UPDATE sal_emp SET pay_by_quarter = ARRAY[25000,25000,27000,27000]
    WHERE name = 'Carol';

An array can also be updated at a single element:

UPDATE sal_emp SET pay_by_quarter[4] = 15000
    WHERE name = 'Bill';

or updated in a slice:

UPDATE sal_emp SET pay_by_quarter[1:2] = '{27000,27000}'
    WHERE name = 'Carol';

The slice syntaxes with omitted lower-bound and/or upper-bound can be used too, but only when updating an array value that is not NULL or zero-dimensional (otherwise, there is no existing subscript limit to substitute).

A stored array value can be enlarged by assigning to elements not already present. Any positions between those previously present and the newly assigned elements will be filled with nulls. For example, if array myarray currently has 4 elements, it will have six elements after an update that assigns to myarray[6]; myarray[5] will contain null. Currently, enlargement in this fashion is only allowed for one-dimensional arrays, not multidimensional arrays.

Subscripted assignment allows creation of arrays that do not use one-based subscripts. For example one might assign to myarray[-2:7] to create an array with subscript values from -2 to 7.

New array values can also be constructed using the concatenation operator, ||:

SELECT ARRAY[1,2] || ARRAY[3,4];
### 8.15.5. Searching in Arrays


 To search for a value in an array, each value must be checked. This can be done manually, if you know the size of the array. For example:

SELECT * FROM sal_emp WHERE pay_by_quarter[1] = 10000 OR pay_by_quarter[2] = 10000 OR pay_by_quarter[3] = 10000 OR pay_by_quarter[4] = 10000;

 However, this quickly becomes tedious for large arrays, and is not helpful if the size of the array is unknown. An alternative method is described in [Section 9.24](functions-comparisons.html). The above query could be replaced by:

SELECT * FROM sal_emp WHERE 10000 = ANY (pay_by_quarter);

 In addition, you can find rows where the array has all values equal to 10000 with:

SELECT * FROM sal_emp WHERE 10000 = ALL (pay_by_quarter);

 Alternatively, the `generate_subscripts` function can be used. For example:

SELECT * FROM (SELECT pay_by_quarter, generate_subscripts(pay_by_quarter, 1) AS s FROM sal_emp) AS foo WHERE pay_by_quarter[s] = 10000;

 This function is described in [Table 9.64](functions-srf.html#FUNCTIONS-SRF-SUBSCRIPTS).

 You can also search an array using the `&&` operator, which checks whether the left operand overlaps with the right operand. For instance:

SELECT * FROM sal_emp WHERE pay_by_quarter && ARRAY[10000];

 This and other array operators are further described in [Section 9.19](functions-array.html). It can be accelerated by an appropriate index, as described in [Section 11.2](indexes-types.html).

 You can also search for specific values in an array using the `array_position` and `array_positions` functions. The former returns the subscript of the first occurrence of a value in an array; the latter returns an array with the subscripts of all occurrences of the value in the array. For example:

SELECT array_position(ARRAY['sun','mon','tue','wed','thu','fri','sat'], 'mon'); array_position

# Tip

Arrays are not sets; searching for specific array elements can be a sign of database misdesign. Consider using a separate table with a row for each item that would be an array element. This will be easier to search, and is likely to scale better for a large number of elements.

# 8.15.6. Array Input and Output Syntax

The external text representation of an array value consists of items that are interpreted according to the I/O conversion rules for the array's element type, plus decoration that indicates the array structure. The decoration consists of curly braces ({ and }) around the array value plus delimiter characters between adjacent items. The delimiter character is usually a comma (,) but can be something else: it is determined by the typdelim setting for the array's element type. Among the standard data types provided in the PostgreSQL distribution, all use a comma, except for type box, which uses a semicolon (;). In a multidimensional array, each dimension (row, plane, cube, etc.) gets its own level of curly braces, and delimiters must be written between adjacent curly-braced entities of the same level.

The array output routine will put double quotes around element values if they are empty strings, contain curly braces, delimiter characters, double quotes, backslashes, or white space, or match the word NULL. Double quotes and backslashes embedded in element values will be backslash-escaped. For numeric data types it is safe to assume that double quotes will never appear, but for textual data types one should be prepared to cope with either the presence or absence of quotes.

By default, the lower bound index value of an array's dimensions is set to one. To represent arrays with other lower bounds, the array subscript ranges can be specified explicitly before writing the array contents. This decoration consists of square brackets ([]) around each array dimension's lower and upper bounds, with a colon (:) delimiter character in between. The array dimension decoration is followed by an equal sign (=). For example:

SELECT f1[1][-2][3] AS e1, f1[1][-1][5] AS e2
 FROM (SELECT '[1:1][-2:-1][3:5]={{{1,2,3},{4,5,6}}}'::int[] AS f1) AS ss;

 e1 | e2
### Tip

 The `ARRAY` constructor syntax (see [Section 4.2.12](sql-expressions.html#SQL-SYNTAX-ARRAY-CONSTRUCTORS)) is often easier to work with than the array-literal syntax when writing array values in SQL commands. In `ARRAY`, individual element values are written the same way they would be written when not members of an array.