Oct 31, 2011

What do people mean by the term Relational Database?

What exactly is a Relational Database? I have heard the term tossed around in conversation a number of times recently, but didn’t want to sound stupid and ask for an explanation of the term. Thanks in advance for helping me out!

Hi becker,

Here's a pretty good background article that will help get you up to speed:


"A relational database matches data by using common characteristics found within the data set. The resulting groups of data uses the relational model (a technical term for this is schema).

The software used in relational database is called a relational database management system (RDBMS). The term "relational database" often refers to RDBMS software, not the database itself.

Relational databases are currently the predominant choice in storing data like financial records, medical records, personal information and manufacturing and logistical data."

You know the old saying; there aren’t any stupid questions.  There are at least three different meanings that I am aware of for relational database.  First, it can simply mean a database that has data stored in tables, which are just groups of similar records.  You can establish a relationship between the tables; one table may contain customer info and another work order history, with both tables containing a customer number that creates a relationship between the two, hence the name “relational”.  Second, it can mean a database that is accessed via Structured Query Language (SQL).  SQL is a language that was designed to organize, update and extract information in databases.  Because SQL uses data stored in tables, it is inherently relational.  Lastly, there is the meaning that I know next to nothing about, other than it is used by mathematicians to refer to how data is arranged.

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