citext module provides a case-insensitive character string type,
citext. Essentially, it internally calls
lower when comparing values. Otherwise, it behaves almost exactly like
The standard approach to doing case-insensitive matches in PostgreSQL has been to use the
lower function when comparing values, for example
SELECT * FROM tab WHERE lower(col) = LOWER(?);
This works reasonably well, but has a number of drawbacks:
It makes your SQL statements verbose, and you always have to remember to use
lower on both the column and the query value.
It won't use an index, unless you create a functional index using
If you declare a column as
PRIMARY KEY, the implicitly generated index is case-sensitive. So it's useless for case-insensitive searches, and it won't enforce uniqueness case-insensitively.
citext data type allows you to eliminate calls to
lower in SQL queries, and allows a primary key to be case-insensitive.
citext is locale-aware, just like
text, which means that the matching of upper case and lower case characters is dependent on the rules of the database's
LC_CTYPE setting. Again, this behavior is identical to the use of
lower in queries. But because it's done transparently by the data type, you don't have to remember to do anything special in your queries.
Here's a simple example of usage:
CREATE TABLE users ( nick CITEXT PRIMARY KEY, pass TEXT NOT NULL ); INSERT INTO users VALUES ( 'larry', sha256(random()::text::bytea) ); INSERT INTO users VALUES ( 'Tom', sha256(random()::text::bytea) ); INSERT INTO users VALUES ( 'Damian', sha256(random()::text::bytea) ); INSERT INTO users VALUES ( 'NEAL', sha256(random()::text::bytea) ); INSERT INTO users VALUES ( 'Bjørn', sha256(random()::text::bytea) ); SELECT * FROM users WHERE nick = 'Larry';
SELECT statement will return one tuple, even though the
nick column was set to
larry and the query was for
citext performs comparisons by converting each string to lower case (as though
lower were called) and then comparing the results normally. Thus, for example, two strings are considered equal if
lower would produce identical results for them.
In order to emulate a case-insensitive collation as closely as possible, there are
citext-specific versions of a number of string-processing operators and functions. So, for example, the regular expression operators
~* exhibit the same behavior when applied to
citext: they both match case-insensitively. The same is true for
!~*, as well as for the
!~~*. If you'd like to match case-sensitively, you can cast the operator's arguments to
Similarly, all of the following functions perform matching case-insensitively if their arguments are
For the regexp functions, if you want to match case-sensitively, you can specify the “c” flag to force a case-sensitive match. Otherwise, you must cast to
text before using one of these functions if you want case-sensitive behavior.
citext's case-folding behavior depends on the
LC_CTYPE setting of your database. How it compares values is therefore determined when the database is created. It is not truly case-insensitive in the terms defined by the Unicode standard. Effectively, what this means is that, as long as you're happy with your collation, you should be happy with
citext's comparisons. But if you have data in different languages stored in your database, users of one language may find their query results are not as expected if the collation is for another language.
As of PostgreSQL 9.1, you can attach a
COLLATE specification to
citext columns or data values. Currently,
citext operators will honor a non-default
COLLATE specification while comparing case-folded strings, but the initial folding to lower case is always done according to the database's
LC_CTYPE setting (that is, as though
COLLATE "default" were given). This may be changed in a future release so that both steps follow the input
citext is not as efficient as
text because the operator functions and the B-tree comparison functions must make copies of the data and convert it to lower case for comparisons. It is, however, slightly more efficient than using
lower to get case-insensitive matching.
citext doesn't help much if you need data to compare case-sensitively in some contexts and case-insensitively in other contexts. The standard answer is to use the
text type and manually use the
lower function when you need to compare case-insensitively; this works all right if case-insensitive comparison is needed only infrequently. If you need case-insensitive behavior most of the time and case-sensitive infrequently, consider storing the data as
citext and explicitly casting the column to
text when you want case-sensitive comparison. In either situation, you will need two indexes if you want both types of searches to be fast.
The schema containing the
citext operators must be in the current
public); if it is not, the normal case-sensitive
text operators will be invoked instead.
David E. Wheeler
Inspired by the original
citext module by Donald Fraser.
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