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Structured Query Language

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Structured Query Language is a phrase that is sometimes used to describe SQL.

The acronym SQL is derived from the acronym SEQUEL, which was short for Structured English Query Language.


SQL evolved from SEQUEL: A STRUCTURED ENGLISH QUERY LANGUAGE developed by Donald D. Chamberlin and Raymond F. Boyce at the IBM Research Laboratory in San Jose, California and described in a paper they published in 1974. Chamberlin and Boyce saw a need for a reasonably high level and easy to learn and understand query (sub-)language that could specify a problem in declarative terms rather than another procedural language like those then used to program most computers. They believe that this would allow a range of professionals who were not computer specialists (at that time), such as accountants, engineers, architects and urban planners, to interact with a computer more directly. They also acknowledged that some users would be unwilling to learn any computer language and would need to interact with a computer by using a natural language or would need to use menu selection. Their deveopment of SEQUEL drew upon the work of E.F. Codd and others in the area of relational data theory.

IBM's use of the word SEQUEL was challenged in a trademark dispute some time after they started socialising System R amongs its customers. At a 1995 reunion, Don Chamberlin recalled that a lawyer had claimed that "SEQUEL" was a trademark of the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company in Great Britain. To resolve the dispute he simply dropped the vowels from the name, thereby changing it to SQL, which aligned well with the designation of APL, another language in use at the time.

Although the original paper for SEQUEL explains the derivation of that acronym from the phrase Structured English Query Language, there is no formal affirmation by the original authors that the acronym SQL is derived from the phrase Structured Query Language as a result of the trademark challenge and name change.

Further reading