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MySQL 5.5 Reference Manual  /  Data Types  /  Data Type Default Values

11.6 Data Type Default Values

Data type specifications can have explicit or implicit default values.

Handling of Explicit Defaults

A DEFAULT value clause in a data type specification explicitly indicates a default value for a column. Examples:

  i     INT DEFAULT -1,
  c     VARCHAR(10) DEFAULT '',
  price DOUBLE(16,2) DEFAULT '0.00'

SERIAL DEFAULT VALUE is a special case. In the definition of an integer column, it is an alias for NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT UNIQUE.

With one exception, the default value specified in a DEFAULT clause must be a literal constant; it cannot be a function or an expression. This means, for example, that you cannot set the default for a date column to be the value of a function such as NOW() or CURRENT_DATE. The exception is that, for a TIMESTAMP column, you can specify CURRENT_TIMESTAMP as the default. See Section 11.3.5, “Automatic Initialization and Updating for TIMESTAMP”.

The BLOB and TEXT data types cannot be assigned a default value.

Handling of Implicit Defaults

If a data type specification includes no explicit DEFAULT value, MySQL determines the default value as follows:

If the column can take NULL as a value, the column is defined with an explicit DEFAULT NULL clause.

If the column cannot take NULL as a value, MySQL defines the column with no explicit DEFAULT clause. Exception: If the column is defined as part of a PRIMARY KEY but not explicitly as NOT NULL, MySQL creates it as a NOT NULL column (because PRIMARY KEY columns must be NOT NULL), but also assigns it a DEFAULT clause using the implicit default value. To prevent this, include an explicit NOT NULL in the definition of any PRIMARY KEY column.

For data entry into a NOT NULL column that has no explicit DEFAULT clause, if an INSERT or REPLACE statement includes no value for the column, or an UPDATE statement sets the column to NULL, MySQL handles the column according to the SQL mode in effect at the time:

  • If strict SQL mode is enabled, an error occurs for transactional tables and the statement is rolled back. For nontransactional tables, an error occurs, but if this happens for the second or subsequent row of a multiple-row statement, the preceding rows will have been inserted.

  • If strict mode is not enabled, MySQL sets the column to the implicit default value for the column data type.

Suppose that a table t is defined as follows:


In this case, i has no explicit default, so in strict mode each of the following statements produce an error and no row is inserted. When not using strict mode, only the third statement produces an error; the implicit default is inserted for the first two statements, but the third fails because DEFAULT(i) cannot produce a value:


See Section 5.1.10, “Server SQL Modes”.

For a given table, the SHOW CREATE TABLE statement displays which columns have an explicit DEFAULT clause.

Implicit defaults are defined as follows:

  • For numeric types, the default is 0, with the exception that for integer or floating-point types declared with the AUTO_INCREMENT attribute, the default is the next value in the sequence.

  • For date and time types other than TIMESTAMP, the default is the appropriate zero value for the type. For the first TIMESTAMP column in a table, the default value is the current date and time. See Section 11.3, “Date and Time Types”.

  • For string types other than ENUM, the default value is the empty string. For ENUM, the default is the first enumeration value.