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MySQL 8.0 Reference Manual  /  Language Structure  /  User-Defined Variables

9.4 User-Defined Variables

You can store a value in a user-defined variable in one statement and refer to it later in another statement. This enables you to pass values from one statement to another.

User variables are written as @var_name, where the variable name var_name consists of alphanumeric characters, ., _, and $. A user variable name can contain other characters if you quote it as a string or identifier (for example, @'my-var', @"my-var", or @`my-var`).

User-defined variables are session specific. A user variable defined by one client cannot be seen or used by other clients. (Exception: A user with access to the Performance Schema user_variables_by_thread table can see all user variables for all sessions.) All variables for a given client session are automatically freed when that client exits.

User variable names are not case-sensitive. Names have a maximum length of 64 characters.

One way to set a user-defined variable is by issuing a SET statement:

SET @var_name = expr [, @var_name = expr] ...

For SET, either = or := can be used as the assignment operator.

User variables can be assigned a value from a limited set of data types: integer, decimal, floating-point, binary or nonbinary string, or NULL value. Assignment of decimal and real values does not preserve the precision or scale of the value. A value of a type other than one of the permissible types is converted to a permissible type. For example, a value having a temporal or spatial data type is converted to a binary string. A value having the JSON data type is converted to a string with a character set of utf8mb4 and a collation of utf8mb4_bin.

If a user variable is assigned a nonbinary (character) string value, it has the same character set and collation as the string. The coercibility of user variables is implicit. (This is the same coercibility as for table column values.)

Hexadecimal or bit values assigned to user variables are treated as binary strings. To assign a hexadecimal or bit value as a number to a user variable, use it in numeric context. For example, add 0 or use CAST(... AS UNSIGNED):

mysql> SET @v1 = X'41';
mysql> SET @v2 = X'41'+0;
mysql> SET @v3 = CAST(X'41' AS UNSIGNED);
mysql> SELECT @v1, @v2, @v3;
+------+------+------+
| @v1  | @v2  | @v3  |
+------+------+------+
| A    |   65 |   65 |
+------+------+------+
mysql> SET @v1 = b'1000001';
mysql> SET @v2 = b'1000001'+0;
mysql> SET @v3 = CAST(b'1000001' AS UNSIGNED);
mysql> SELECT @v1, @v2, @v3;
+------+------+------+
| @v1  | @v2  | @v3  |
+------+------+------+
| A    |   65 |   65 |
+------+------+------+

If the value of a user variable is selected in a result set, it is returned to the client as a string.

If you refer to a variable that has not been initialized, it has a value of NULL and a type of string.

User variables may be used in most contexts where expressions are permitted. This does not currently include contexts that explicitly require a literal value, such as in the LIMIT clause of a SELECT statement, or the IGNORE N LINES clause of a LOAD DATA statement.

Previous releases of MySQL made it possible to assign a value to a user variable in statements other than SET. This functionality is supported in MySQL 8.0 for backward compatibility but is subject to removal in a future release of MySQL.

When making an assignment in this way, you must use := as the assignment operator; = is treated as the comparison operator in statements other than SET.

The order of evaluation for expressions involving user variables is undefined. For example, there is no guarantee that SELECT @a, @a:=@a+1 evaluates @a first and then performs the assignment.

In addition, the default result type of a variable is based on its type at the beginning of the statement. This may have unintended effects if a variable holds a value of one type at the beginning of a statement in which it is also assigned a new value of a different type.

To avoid problems with this behavior, either do not assign a value to and read the value of the same variable within a single statement, or else set the variable to 0, 0.0, or '' to define its type before you use it.

HAVING, GROUP BY, and ORDER BY, when referring to a variable that is assigned a value in the select expression list do not work as expected because the expression is evaluated on the client and thus can use stale column values from a previous row.

User variables are intended to provide data values. They cannot be used directly in an SQL statement as an identifier or as part of an identifier, such as in contexts where a table or database name is expected, or as a reserved word such as SELECT. This is true even if the variable is quoted, as shown in the following example:

mysql> SELECT c1 FROM t;
+----+
| c1 |
+----+
|  0 |
+----+
|  1 |
+----+
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)

mysql> SET @col = "c1";
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT @col FROM t;
+------+
| @col |
+------+
| c1   |
+------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT `@col` FROM t;
ERROR 1054 (42S22): Unknown column '@col' in 'field list'

mysql> SET @col = "`c1`";
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT @col FROM t;
+------+
| @col |
+------+
| `c1` |
+------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

An exception to this principle that user variables cannot be used to provide identifiers, is when you are constructing a string for use as a prepared statement to execute later. In this case, user variables can be used to provide any part of the statement. The following example illustrates how this can be done:

mysql> SET @c = "c1";
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> SET @s = CONCAT("SELECT ", @c, " FROM t");
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> PREPARE stmt FROM @s;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.04 sec)
Statement prepared

mysql> EXECUTE stmt;
+----+
| c1 |
+----+
|  0 |
+----+
|  1 |
+----+
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)

mysql> DEALLOCATE PREPARE stmt;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

See Section 13.5, “Prepared SQL Statement Syntax”, for more information.

A similar technique can be used in application programs to construct SQL statements using program variables, as shown here using PHP 5:

<?php
  $mysqli = new mysqli("localhost", "user", "pass", "test");

  if( mysqli_connect_errno() )
    die("Connection failed: %s\n", mysqli_connect_error());

  $col = "c1";

  $query = "SELECT $col FROM t";

  $result = $mysqli->query($query);

  while($row = $result->fetch_assoc())
  {
    echo "<p>" . $row["$col"] . "</p>\n";
  }

  $result->close();

  $mysqli->close();
?>

Assembling an SQL statement in this fashion is sometimes known as Dynamic SQL.