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Most Basic SQL Doubt - Why is it called a Table in the first place? Expand / Collapse
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Posted Sunday, March 2, 2014 11:06 PM
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Hi
I have been pondering this for a while now. All the rest of SQL objects (Views, Procs, Triggers, Indexes) have suitable names that pertain to the meaning of the same. But why is a database Table called a 'Table' in the first place?
Does a real-world table contain rows and columns? Why did they name it thus?

I'm sure this question might seem silly for many. But I had this doubt ever since I heard of SQL tables and would like to know the reason why they're named that way.
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Posted Sunday, March 2, 2014 11:56 PM


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The best answer I can give you is, Latin - "Table" is derived from the classical Latin word "tabula."

Maybe it got its name because it's a structure that you can place things on, stack neatly, easily organize...and all the other good words in the language were taken already!

That's like questioning why the letters of the alphabet start with "A-B-C" and not Q-W-E"
(Snort, snort, snort)


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Post #1546790
Posted Monday, March 3, 2014 6:55 AM This worked for the OP Answer marked as solution


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It comes from the second definition for "Table" in the dictionary...

a set of facts or figures systematically displayed, esp. in columns.


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column."

(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

Helpful Links:
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Posted Saturday, May 24, 2014 6:32 PM


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I think this is the most complete etymological explanation:

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/10976/does-the-word-table-have-anything-to-do-with-a-table

That kind of table comes from the Latin tabula meaning "a board or plank" which was used for writing down columns of numbers


That page has a link to this page, which has further detail:
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=table&searchmode=none

Both the French and Germanic words are from Latin tabula "a board, plank; writing table; list, schedule; picture, painted panel," originally "small flat slab or piece" usually for inscriptions or for games (source also of Spanish tabla, Italian tavola), of uncertain origin, related to Umbrian tafle "on the board."


Basically, it seems like boards and planks were sometimes used to record lists or other data, and eventually that idea stuck in the derived name.

I hope this helps.

Great question, by the way!

- webrunner


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Posted Sunday, May 25, 2014 9:45 AM


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webrunner (5/24/2014)
I think this is the most complete etymological explanation:

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/10976/does-the-word-table-have-anything-to-do-with-a-table

That kind of table comes from the Latin tabula meaning "a board or plank" which was used for writing down columns of numbers


That page has a link to this page, which has further detail:
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=table&searchmode=none

BWAA-HAAAA!!! I was just thinking that I should change the article called "Crosstabs and Pivots" to "Crossed Planks and Hinges".

Both the French and Germanic words are from Latin tabula "a board, plank; writing table; list, schedule; picture, painted panel," originally "small flat slab or piece" usually for inscriptions or for games (source also of Spanish tabla, Italian tavola), of uncertain origin, related to Umbrian tafle "on the board."


Basically, it seems like boards and planks were sometimes used to record lists or other data, and eventually that idea stuck in the derived name.

I hope this helps.

Great question, by the way!

- webrunner


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column."

(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Post #1574392
Posted Sunday, May 25, 2014 10:03 AM


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Even today the Latin word tabula is sometimes used in English, for example in the phrase "tabula rasa" (an erased slate - or an empty table ); in Latin, it meant a slate or a wax tablet, the two common things on which one could write or draw and also erase or alter what was already there. And that's where English got the word table from.

So one meaning of "table" is something that can record information and whose contents can be deleted or altered. One special meaning was for such a thing where the information was organised into rows and columns. This special meaning antedated relational databases by a very long time, and given what the storage structure in relational databases is it's not surprising that people noticed that the storage structure consisted of something for which we already had the name "table" and didn't bother to invent a new name.


Tom
Post #1574396
Posted Monday, May 26, 2014 7:38 AM


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Dr. Codd has "relations" which had "tuples" and "attributes", which was very abstract.

File systems have "files" which have "records" and "fields", which was very concrete and physical.

SQL has "tables" which had "rows" and "columns", which was semi-abstract. They do not behave like files and records, but they are not completely abstract either.

But I have no idea why Chamberlain and his team picked those terms.


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