10.6. Operations Affected by Character Set Support

This section describes operations that take character set information into account.

10.6.1. Result Strings

MySQL has many operators and functions that return a string. This section answers the question: What is the character set and collation of such a string?

For simple functions that take string input and return a string result as output, the output's character set and collation are the same as those of the principal input value. For example, UPPER(X) returns a string whose character string and collation are the same as that of X. The same applies for INSTR(), LCASE(), LOWER(), LTRIM(), MID(), REPEAT(), REPLACE(), REVERSE(), RIGHT(), RPAD(), RTRIM(), SOUNDEX(), SUBSTRING(), TRIM(), UCASE(), and UPPER().

Note: The REPLACE() function, unlike all other functions, always ignores the collation of the string input and performs a case-sensitive comparison.

If a string input or function result is a binary string, the string has no character set or collation. This can be check by using the CHARSET() and COLLATION() functions, both of which return binary to indicate that their argument is a binary string:

| binary              | binary                |

For operations that combine multiple string inputs and return a single string output, the “aggregation rules” of standard SQL apply for determining the collation of the result:

  • If an explicit COLLATE X occurs, use X.

  • If explicit COLLATE X and COLLATE Y occur, raise an error.

  • Otherwise, if all collations are X, use X.

  • Otherwise, the result has no collation.

For example, with CASE ... WHEN a THEN b WHEN b THEN c COLLATE X END, the resulting collation is X. The same applies for UNION, ||, CONCAT(), ELT(), GREATEST(), IF(), and LEAST().

For operations that convert to character data, the character set and collation of the strings that result from the operations are defined by the character_set_connection and collation_connection system variables. This applies to CAST(), CONV(), FORMAT(), HEX(), SPACE(). Before MySQL 5.0.15, it also applies to CHAR().

10.6.2. CONVERT() and CAST()

CONVERT() provides a way to convert data between different character sets. The syntax is:

CONVERT(expr USING transcoding_name)

In MySQL, transcoding names are the same as the corresponding character set names.


SELECT CONVERT(_latin1'Müller' USING utf8);
INSERT INTO utf8table (utf8column)
    SELECT CONVERT(latin1field USING utf8) FROM latin1table;

CONVERT(... USING ...) is implemented according to the standard SQL specification.

You may also use CAST() to convert a string to a different character set. The syntax is:

CAST(character_string AS character_data_type CHARACTER SET charset_name)



If you use CAST() without specifying CHARACTER SET, the resulting character set and collation are defined by the character_set_connection and collation_connection system variables. If you use CAST() with CHARACTER SET X, the resulting character set and collation are X and the default collation of X.

You may not use a COLLATE clause inside a CAST(), but you may use it outside. That is, CAST(... COLLATE ...) is illegal, but CAST(...) COLLATE ... is legal.


SELECT CAST(_latin1'test' AS CHAR CHARACTER SET utf8) COLLATE utf8_bin;

10.6.3. SHOW Statements and INFORMATION_SCHEMA

Several SHOW statements provide additional character set information. These include SHOW CHARACTER SET, SHOW COLLATION, SHOW CREATE DATABASE, SHOW CREATE TABLE and SHOW COLUMNS. These statements are described here briefly. For more information, see Section 13.5.4, “SHOW Syntax”.

INFORMATION_SCHEMA has several tables that contain information similar to that displayed by the SHOW statements. For example, the CHARACTER_SETS and COLLATIONS tables contain the information displayed by SHOW CHARACTER SET and SHOW COLLATION. Chapter 20, The INFORMATION_SCHEMA Database.

The SHOW CHARACTER SET command shows all available character sets. It takes an optional LIKE clause that indicates which character set names to match. For example:

mysql> SHOW CHARACTER SET LIKE 'latin%';
| Charset | Description                 | Default collation | Maxlen |
| latin1  | cp1252 West European        | latin1_swedish_ci |      1 |
| latin2  | ISO 8859-2 Central European | latin2_general_ci |      1 |
| latin5  | ISO 8859-9 Turkish          | latin5_turkish_ci |      1 |
| latin7  | ISO 8859-13 Baltic          | latin7_general_ci |      1 |

The output from SHOW COLLATION includes all available character sets. It takes an optional LIKE clause that indicates which collation names to match. For example:

mysql> SHOW COLLATION LIKE 'latin1%';
| Collation         | Charset | Id | Default | Compiled | Sortlen |
| latin1_german1_ci | latin1  |  5 |         |          |       0 |
| latin1_swedish_ci | latin1  |  8 | Yes     | Yes      |       0 |
| latin1_danish_ci  | latin1  | 15 |         |          |       0 |
| latin1_german2_ci | latin1  | 31 |         | Yes      |       2 |
| latin1_bin        | latin1  | 47 |         | Yes      |       0 |
| latin1_general_ci | latin1  | 48 |         |          |       0 |
| latin1_general_cs | latin1  | 49 |         |          |       0 |
| latin1_spanish_ci | latin1  | 94 |         |          |       0 |

SHOW CREATE DATABASE displays the CREATE DATABASE statement that creates a given database:

| Database | Create Database                                                 |
| test     | CREATE DATABASE `test` /*!40100 DEFAULT CHARACTER SET latin1 */ |

If no COLLATE clause is shown, the default collation for the character set applies.

SHOW CREATE TABLE is similar, but displays the CREATE TABLE statement to create a given table. The column definitions indicate any character set specifications, and the table options include character set information.

The SHOW COLUMNS statement displays the collations of a table's columns when invoked as SHOW FULL COLUMNS. Columns with CHAR, VARCHAR, or TEXT data types have collations. Numeric and other non-character types have no collation (indicated by NULL as the Collation value). For example:

*************************** 1. row ***************************
     Field: id
      Type: smallint(5) unsigned
 Collation: NULL
      Null: NO
       Key: PRI
   Default: NULL
     Extra: auto_increment
Privileges: select,insert,update,references
*************************** 2. row ***************************
     Field: name
      Type: char(60)
 Collation: latin1_swedish_ci
      Null: NO
Privileges: select,insert,update,references

The character set is not part of the display but is implied by the collation name.