Constant Values

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As of May 16, 2023, CockroachDB v21.2 is no longer supported. For more details, refer to the Release Support Policy.

SQL Constants represent a simple value that doesn't change.


There are five categories of constants in CockroachDB:

  • String literals: these define string values but their actual data type will be inferred from context, for example, 'hello'.
  • Numeric literals: these define numeric values but their actual data type will be inferred from context, for example, -12.3.
  • Bit array literals: these define bit array values with data type BIT, for example, B'1001001'.
  • Byte array literals: these define byte array values with data type BYTES, for example, b'hello'.
  • Interpreted literals: these define arbitrary values with an explicit type, for example, INTERVAL '3 days'.
  • Named constants: these have predefined values with a predefined type, for example, TRUE or NULL.

String literals

CockroachDB supports the following formats for string literals:

These formats also allow arbitrary Unicode characters encoded as UTF-8.

In any case, the actual data type of a string literal is determined using the context where it appears.

For example:

Expression Data type of the string literal
length('hello') STRING
now() + '3 day' INTERVAL
INSERT INTO tb(date_col) VALUES ('2013-01-02') DATE

In general, the data type of a string literal is that demanded by the context if there is no ambiguity, or STRING otherwise.

Check our blog for more information about the typing of string literals.

Standard SQL string literals

SQL string literals are formed by an arbitrary sequence of characters enclosed between single quotes ('), for example, 'hello world'.

To include a single quote in the string, use a double single quote. For example:

> SELECT 'hello' as a, 'it''s a beautiful day' as b;
|   a   |          b           |
| hello | it's a beautiful day |

For compatibility with the SQL standard, CockroachDB also recognizes the following special syntax: two simple string literals separated by a newline character are automatically concatenated together to form a single constant. For example:

> SELECT 'hello'
' world!' as a;
|      a       |
| hello world! |

This special syntax only works if the two simple literals are separated by a newline character. For example 'hello' ' world!' doesn't work. This is mandated by the SQL standard.

String literals with character escapes

CockroachDB also supports string literals containing escape sequences like in the programming language C. These are constructed by prefixing the string literal with the letter e, for example, e'hello\nworld!'.

The following escape sequences are supported:

Escape Sequence Interpretation
\a ASCII code 7 (BEL)
\b backspace (ASCII 8)
\t tab (ASCII 9)
\n newline (ASCII 10)
\v vertical tab (ASCII 11)
\f form feed (ASCII 12)
\r carriage return (ASCII 13)
\xHH hexadecimal byte value
\ooo octal byte value
\uXXXX 16-bit hexadecimal Unicode character value
\UXXXXXXXX 32-bit hexadecimal Unicode character value

For example, the e'x61\141\u0061' escape string represents the hexadecimal byte, octal byte, and 16-bit hexadecimal Unicode character values equivalent to the 'aaa' string literal.

Dollar-quoted string literals

To make it easier to write certain types of string constants in SQL code, CockroachDB supports dollar-quoted string literals. This is particularly useful for strings that need to contain lots of single quotes (') or backslashes (\).

At a high level, the dollar-quoting behavior works similarly to "heredocs" as used in UNIX shells and some programming languages.

Dollar-quoted strings have the form: $ + (optional) tag + $ + arbitrary text + $ + (optional) tag + $

For example:

SELECT char_length($MyCoolString$
You can put anything you want in this string -- for example, here's a Windows filesystem pathname: 'C:\Users\foo\Downloads\'

You can even nest additional dollar-quoted strings inside each other.  For example, here is a regular expression using backticks: $myRegex$[foo\tbar]$myRegex$

Finally, you can use $stand-alone dollar signs without the optional tag$.
(1 row)

Numeric literals

Numeric literals can have the following forms:


Some examples:


The actual data type of a numeric constant depends both on the context where it is used, its literal format, and its numeric value.

Syntax Possible data types
Contains a decimal separator FLOAT, DECIMAL
Contains an exponent FLOAT, DECIMAL
Contains a value outside of the range -2^63...(2^63)-1 FLOAT, DECIMAL

Of the possible data types, which one is actually used is then further refined depending on context.

Check our blog for more information about the typing of numeric literals.

Bit array literals

Bit array literals consist of the B prefix followed by a string of binary digits (bits) enclosed in single quotes.

For example: B'1001010101'

Bit array literals are acceptable both when values of types BIT or VARBIT (BIT VARYING) are expected.

The number of bits is arbitrary. An empty bit array is denoted B''; the number of bits need not be a multiple of 8, and bit arrays can contain more than 64 bits.

Byte array literals

CockroachDB supports two formats for byte array literals:

Byte array literals with character escapes

This uses the same syntax as string literals containing character escapes, using a b prefix instead of e. Any character escapes are interpreted like they would be for string literals.

For example: b'hello,\x32world'

The two differences between byte array literals and string literals with character escapes are as follows:

  • Byte array literals always have data type BYTES, whereas the data type of a string literal depends on context.
  • Byte array literals may contain invalid UTF-8 byte sequences, whereas string literals must always contain valid UTF-8 sequences.

Hexadecimal-encoded byte array literals

This is a CockroachDB-specific extension to express byte array literals: the delimiter x' followed by an arbitrary sequence of hexadecimal digits, followed by a closing '.

For example, all the following formats are equivalent to b'cat':

  • x'636174'
  • X'636174'

Interpreted literals

A constant of any data type can be formed using either of the following formats:

type 'string'

The value of the string part is used as input for the conversion function to the specified data type, and the result is used as a constant with that data type.


DATE '2013-12-23'
'3 days':::INTERVAL

Additionally, for compatibility with PostgreSQL, the notation 'string'::type and CAST('string' AS type) is also recognized as an interpreted literal. These are special cases of cast expressions.

For more information about the allowable format of interpreted literals, refer to the "Syntax" section of the respective data types: DATE, INET, INTERVAL, TIME, TIMESTAMP/TIMESTAMPTZ.

Named constants

CockroachDB recognizes the following SQL named constants:

  • TRUE and FALSE, the two possible values of data type BOOL.
  • NULL, the special SQL symbol that indicates "no value present".

Note that NULL is a valid constant for any type: its actual data type during expression evaluation is determined based on context.

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