9.2.1 Identifier Qualifiers

MySQL permits names that consist of a single identifier or multiple identifiers. The components of a multiple-part name must be separated by period (.) characters. The initial parts of a multiple-part name act as qualifiers that affect the context within which the final identifier is interpreted.

In MySQL, you can refer to a table column using any of the following forms.

Column ReferenceMeaning
col_nameThe column col_name from whichever table used in the statement contains a column of that name.
tbl_name.col_nameThe column col_name from table tbl_name of the default database.
db_name.tbl_name.col_nameThe column col_name from table tbl_name of the database db_name.

The qualifier character is a separate token and need not be contiguous with the associated identifiers. For example, tbl_name.col_name and tbl_name . col_name are equivalent.

If any components of a multiple-part name require quoting, quote them individually rather than quoting the name as a whole. For example, write `my-table`.`my-column`, not `my-table.my-column`.

A reserved word that follows a period in a qualified name must be an identifier, so in that context it need not be quoted.

You need not specify a tbl_name or db_name.tbl_name prefix for a column reference in a statement unless the reference would be ambiguous. Suppose that tables t1 and t2 each contain a column c, and you retrieve c in a SELECT statement that uses both t1 and t2. In this case, c is ambiguous because it is not unique among the tables used in the statement. You must qualify it with a table name as t1.c or t2.c to indicate which table you mean. Similarly, to retrieve from a table t in database db1 and from a table t in database db2 in the same statement, you must refer to columns in those tables as db1.t.col_name and db2.t.col_name.

The syntax .tbl_name means the table tbl_name in the default database. This syntax is accepted for ODBC compatibility because some ODBC programs prefix table names with a . character.