3.3.4.7 Pattern Matching

MySQL provides standard SQL pattern matching as well as a form of pattern matching based on extended regular expressions similar to those used by Unix utilities such as vi, grep, and sed.

SQL pattern matching enables you to use _ to match any single character and % to match an arbitrary number of characters (including zero characters). In MySQL, SQL patterns are case-insensitive by default. Some examples are shown here. You do not use = or <> when you use SQL patterns; use the LIKE or NOT LIKE comparison operators instead.

To find names beginning with b:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name LIKE 'b%';
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+------------+
| name   | owner  | species | sex  | birth      | death      |
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+------------+
| Buffy  | Harold | dog     | f    | 1989-05-13 | NULL       |
| Bowser | Diane  | dog     | m    | 1989-08-31 | 1995-07-29 |
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+------------+

To find names ending with fy:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name LIKE '%fy';
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| name   | owner  | species | sex  | birth      | death |
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| Fluffy | Harold | cat     | f    | 1993-02-04 | NULL  |
| Buffy  | Harold | dog     | f    | 1989-05-13 | NULL  |
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+

To find names containing a w:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name LIKE '%w%';
+----------+-------+---------+------+------------+------------+
| name     | owner | species | sex  | birth      | death      |
+----------+-------+---------+------+------------+------------+
| Claws    | Gwen  | cat     | m    | 1994-03-17 | NULL       |
| Bowser   | Diane | dog     | m    | 1989-08-31 | 1995-07-29 |
| Whistler | Gwen  | bird    | NULL | 1997-12-09 | NULL       |
+----------+-------+---------+------+------------+------------+

To find names containing exactly five characters, use five instances of the _ pattern character:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name LIKE '_____';
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| name  | owner  | species | sex  | birth      | death |
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| Claws | Gwen   | cat     | m    | 1994-03-17 | NULL  |
| Buffy | Harold | dog     | f    | 1989-05-13 | NULL  |
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+

The other type of pattern matching provided by MySQL uses extended regular expressions. When you test for a match for this type of pattern, use the REGEXP and NOT REGEXP operators (or RLIKE and NOT RLIKE, which are synonyms).

The following list describes some characteristics of extended regular expressions:

To demonstrate how extended regular expressions work, the LIKE queries shown previously are rewritten here to use REGEXP.

To find names beginning with b, use ^ to match the beginning of the name:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name REGEXP '^b';
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+------------+
| name   | owner  | species | sex  | birth      | death      |
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+------------+
| Buffy  | Harold | dog     | f    | 1989-05-13 | NULL       |
| Bowser | Diane  | dog     | m    | 1989-08-31 | 1995-07-29 |
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+------------+

If you really want to force a REGEXP comparison to be case sensitive, use the BINARY keyword to make one of the strings a binary string. This query matches only lowercase b at the beginning of a name:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name REGEXP BINARY '^b';

To find names ending with fy, use $ to match the end of the name:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name REGEXP 'fy$';
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| name   | owner  | species | sex  | birth      | death |
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| Fluffy | Harold | cat     | f    | 1993-02-04 | NULL  |
| Buffy  | Harold | dog     | f    | 1989-05-13 | NULL  |
+--------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+

To find names containing a w, use this query:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name REGEXP 'w';
+----------+-------+---------+------+------------+------------+
| name     | owner | species | sex  | birth      | death      |
+----------+-------+---------+------+------------+------------+
| Claws    | Gwen  | cat     | m    | 1994-03-17 | NULL       |
| Bowser   | Diane | dog     | m    | 1989-08-31 | 1995-07-29 |
| Whistler | Gwen  | bird    | NULL | 1997-12-09 | NULL       |
+----------+-------+---------+------+------------+------------+

Because a regular expression pattern matches if it occurs anywhere in the value, it is not necessary in the previous query to put a wildcard on either side of the pattern to get it to match the entire value like it would be if you used an SQL pattern.

To find names containing exactly five characters, use ^ and $ to match the beginning and end of the name, and five instances of . in between:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name REGEXP '^.....$';
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| name  | owner  | species | sex  | birth      | death |
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| Claws | Gwen   | cat     | m    | 1994-03-17 | NULL  |
| Buffy | Harold | dog     | f    | 1989-05-13 | NULL  |
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+

You could also write the previous query using the {n} (repeat-n-times) operator:

mysql> SELECT * FROM pet WHERE name REGEXP '^.{5}$';
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| name  | owner  | species | sex  | birth      | death |
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+
| Claws | Gwen   | cat     | m    | 1994-03-17 | NULL  |
| Buffy | Harold | dog     | f    | 1989-05-13 | NULL  |
+-------+--------+---------+------+------------+-------+

Section 12.5.2, “Regular Expressions”, provides more information about the syntax for regular expressions.