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Is SQL a Programming Language?

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With a simple spreadsheet, you can keep track of a lot of information, isn’t it? To some extent, it is, but there comes a point where it isn’t. There is a great difference between the situation when you are working with information about ten items and working with information about a few thousand items.

There is no doubt that sooner or later no matter what kind of website you create, you will need to start looking into smarter ways of storing the data that you generate. A database management system is an answer to this problem.

A database management system can communicate with SQL, which is a powerful tool. SQL queries are a set of instructions given to a computer, and the computer executes these instructions as soon as possible.

As if we are talking about programming, it sounds like that. SQL, however, is not as easy to develop applications with as Python or Java and you cannot build the same type of applications. So a question comes to mind whether SQL is a programming language or not. But before that, we are going to discuss that SQL.

What is SQL?

SQL stands for Structured Query Language and is one of the most powerful tools available today for storing, manipulating, controlling, and retrieving data from Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMSs).

The SQL language is an interpreter language, as opposed to the C++ or Java languages, which use compilers. There are a number of scripting languages that can be used for a number of different native systems. You can use SQL for the database, Unix scripts (of any flavor) for Unix/Linux, and shell scripts for DOS/Windows.

However, you cannot use SQL to access disk blocks, pages, etc. Like OS scripts, they generally do not offer direct access to memory, disk, graphics control, and/or complex real-time user interactions.

In most cases, you are able to see that SQL is enclosed with another programming language such as C or C++. It is rare for people to write complete “applications” in SQL. It is a language based on sets that are capable of handling queries and manipulations of relational data sets in a set-like manner.

The question “Is SQL a programming language?” is one of the most debated questions for a long time. Using SQL to talk to your database is not the same as building a web page or an application, but it definitely looks like you are programming when you use SQL to work with your database.

What Is a Database?

The database is specially used to store large amounts of data, and multiple users can get access at the same time. The type of database depends on the storage of the data.


There are many examples of distributed databases in which the databases are shared among many computers occupying the same physical space or are spread over multiple physical locations. Relational databases use rows and columns to store data, similar to spreadsheets.

With spreadsheets, you can manipulate stored data simply, while with relational databases utilizing SQL, you can manipulate the data in complex ways. In order to access structured data, relational databases are most commonly used.

Is SQL a programming language?

In order to understand why SQL is a programming language, let’s first define it as“It is a set of grammar rules and vocabulary that instruct a computer to perform a particular task.” So it’s clear from the definition that SQL is a programming language.

programming language

A SQL query instructs the database to perform a specific action based on a set of grammatical rules and vocabulary. SQL is a programming language, it can perform more than just being the language that describes how to communicate with a database.

SQL: Is it a general-purpose language?

This is where the biggest confusion in the debate between SQL and whether or not it is a programming language. People think that python, PHP, JavaScript, and C++ are programming languages.

You can use these programming languages for specific domains, but you can still use these languages in different applications. In this way, we can describe the general-purpose programming language. You cannot use it for specific purposes.

It is very helpful for general purposes. On the other hand, if talk about SQL, developers can use it to communicate with databases. From this, it’s clear that it’s not a general-purpose programming language. You can use SQL programming language to create web-based applications 

Is SQL a domain-specific language?

As we already explain, SQL is not a general-purpose programming language. What actually is it? It is also known as the domain-specific language that is used for specific purposes. For example, it will be used for specific domains.

Here comes the discussion of  HTML and CSS, these both are building blocks of web coding. There are many uses of HTML and CSS as:

  • You can use HTML  to construct web page content and structure it. Web developers consider HTML as the bones of the web body.
  • If we talk about CSS, it is the skin of the webpage used to arrange the layout and to change background color and styling.
  • Additionally, you can also translate HTML elements’ display and design.

Both programming languages are specific as SQL is specific for single purposes or use for single domains. This programming language is specially designed just to get better results.

SQL is extremely quick in storing and updating millions of rows and columns, as SQL is very quick in services, accessing databases, and in making different changes. Multi-users can get access to the database at the same time.

SQL: Is it a procedural language?

Actually, SQL is not a procedural language, but when developers use some extensions which make SQL also a procedural language, these extensions are as SQL/PSM and PL/SQL both are procedural languages. So, in this way, SQL is also a procedural language but actually, it is not.

SQL: Is a Scripting Language?

Before we discuss whether SQL is a scripting language or not, do we have an idea of what a scripting language is? A scripting language is a language that includes a set of instructions that are known as scripts.

Software, applications, or scripts control these instructions within a runtime environment through the implementation of commands and rules within the runtime environment, where they interact with one by one. From all the above details, it’s revealed now that SQL is a scripting language. This language doesn’t translate as C languages.


From all the above discussion, hopefully, now it’s easy for you to know that SQL is a programming language that is specially designed to use for a specific domain and only for a specific purpose. That means it’s not a general programming language, it falls into a specific domain of programming language and scripting language. 

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