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How to pronounce SQL

Is "SQL" sometimes pronounced "sequel"? What is the preferred way to refer to SQL? Also, does SQL imply a specific type or brand of database, or do many databases support SQL as a command language?

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Yes, SQL is sometimes pronounced "sequel," but mostly by people who have experience only with Microsoft's database system SQL Server, usually pronounced "sequel-server," which is one of the most commonly used database systems today. The more accepted pronunciation is "ess cue ell," in which each letter is spoken separately. A few people, for whatever reason, pronounce it "squeal" or "squirrel" but this is rare. If you're feeling adventurous, do an Internet search on google or alltheweb using "pronounce SQL" or similar search terms.

SQL dates back to IBM's development of relational databases in the early 1970's with a language called SEQUEL (Structured English QUery Language). Due to copyright problems, IBM had to change the name, so they chose SQL. Since that time, SQL has evolved considerably. Several versions of standard SQL have been published, including SQL-86, SQL-92, and SQL-99.

So SQL by itself should refer only to the language. You will often see the letters SQL embedded right in the name of a relational database system, such as SQL Server, MySQL, Mimer SQL, and PostgreSQL. Even if the database system name does not mention SQL, such as DB2, Oracle, Sybase, Access, and so on, the database system almost certainly supports the SQL language -- more or less. Many relational database systems have extensions and additional capabilities over and above (and, sadly, sometimes in place of) the specifications in the SQL standard.

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This was first published in November 2002

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