What Does SQL Stand For? – Structured Query Language

SQL – otherwise known as “sequel” – is a database programming language used to find answers in a database. There are several variations of the SQL language depending on the database we use, but the structure of the language is the same. This is known as the ANSI Standard. What does SQL stand for? SQL stands for Structured Query Language.

Breakdown of Structured – Query – Language


This means that the data is in a format that is easy to use and sift through. Most commonly we’ll find data with rows and columns in a format that is easily readable.

  • Most people are familiar with data in an excel sheet that has rows and columns with headers. Below is an example of 2017 census data that lives in an excel spreadsheet.
census info 2017
  • A text file can have data in a structured format just by separating its values by commas in each row. This is commonly referred to as a CSV file, although the column separator can be any character that breaks up the columns of data.
csv customer information

In most cases, in order to write SQL, we need a SQL editor (aka SQL client). There are several types out there, but they will allow us to write SQL code against a database. The structured format for the data in a database sits in a table. A table will have rows and columns like an Excel spreadsheet.


By definition, a query is a form of questioning. That means we’re asking a question to a database filled with data. The answer can only happen if the data exists in the database. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites will have data about us and our friends. We could use Facebook data to find family members we didn’t even know we had! There’s a reason they’ve been under such scrutiny about user data and privacy breaches. Holding others data becomes a responsibility.


Like English, Spanish, French – SQL is a language, but one specifically designed for databases. There are many other computer languages – Python, C++, C#, Java, Javascript, and more – but SQL is specific to ask questions of any typical relational database.

Like English – we could live in the US, Canada, UK and many other countries, but in the end it’s still the English language. With SQL, it works the same way. Whether it’s writing SQL code in a Oracle database, Microsoft SQL Server database, Postgres database, Amazon database, or others – they all have a flavor that slightly varies from the other. Most SQL code will transfer from one database to another.

What does SQL stand for?

Think of SQL as a way to figure out and solve problems with data in a precise format. Data must be structured in order to write a SQL query. In the past, data would have to sit in a database in a table with rows and columns. Now companies like Amazon and Snowflake have created tools that allow us to write SQL directly against semi-structured data in the cloud. SQL is constantly evolving.