The other day, a friend told me that in USA, they pronounce SQL like squel, not es-qu-el. I was surprised. I was wondering how "SELECT *" is read/pronounced while talking.

  • select star?
  • select asterisks?
  • select all?
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    BTW, it seems Joel Spolsky has a hatred for calling SQL, Sequel... I guess he doesn't know the history. Many seem to think it's a Microsofty culture term, but it's really from back in the IBM days. – ocodo Jan 7 '11 at 13:01
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    @Slomojo: I understand him. The sounding of this word is calling for violence... – user8685 Jan 7 '11 at 13:20
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    I think I'll start pronouncing it as "select splash". ^^ – gablin Jan 7 '11 at 13:36
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    I usually say "select all" because that's what it means (as opposed to how it's actually written). If that would be ambiguous, I'll drop back and say "select star" because anyone can understand that. Oh, I hate saying "sequel" (but do it anyways because that's standard here) because when I grew up there was a "Sequent" operating system out and sequel/sequent caused confusion on more than one occasion... – Brian Knoblauch Jan 7 '11 at 16:33
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    RE: SQL Pronunciation programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/8588/… – Peter Turner Jan 7 '11 at 16:50

12 Answers 12


I live in the US and almost always hear it pronounced select star

And normally I use sequel instead of es-qu-el because it has fewer syllables and seems easier to say

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    Easiest rep ever – Nicole Jan 7 '11 at 17:02
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    I think they only say "select star" because they don't understand set theory or logic. Leave it to computer people to invent new terminology for stuff that's been around for a long time. – Old account Jan 7 '11 at 19:03
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    @Marlon: lol I've never actually heard the term "select splat" before today.... I would think it highly unusual if anyone actually used that term when talking to me. Do you normally call * a splat? When talking to non-computer-saavy people I cannot imaging telling them to "hit the splat key". I think that's why we say star, because it's easier for non-techy people to understand than a big word like "asterisk" – Rachel Jan 7 '11 at 19:13
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    @omouse, what would be the set theoretical way to pronounce it? "Select universe"? – Peter Taylor Feb 11 '11 at 12:03
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    I think they only say "select star" because they don't understand set theory or logic. - That's absurd. If you're using Unix, do you say "el-es wildcard"? Or in DOS, would you say 'dir wildcard dot wildcard'? Reading is not the same as describing something. – Kirk Broadhurst Nov 17 '11 at 2:54

SQL was originally called SEQUEL, which is why many people say it that way.

However, ANSI declared that it be called SQL (es-q-el) at some point in the 80's (it was already spelled SQL at that time.) (at the first standardisation conference in 1986.)

Personally, since the creators of SEQUEL called it that way, I think it's more respectful to call it by that name (Ray Boyce, died of a brain aneurism before SQL was standardised), as opposed to some committee designation. (Not to mention the vast majority of people who were using SQL back then called it SEQUEL, so that's it's original organic language usage.)

However, there is zero controversy on how you say SELECT * I suppose select all is most useful, in terms of communication, but there's no canonically correct way, and you will hear people say select star pretty often, select asterisk is poor rhythmically, and conveys no meaning, so it's unlikely anyone would ever use that phrasing. Because, you know, it sounds stupid.


I misremembered the cause of death of Ray Boyce, brain aneurism, (one of SEQUEL's creators) - not a car accident.

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    It hurts my ears when I hear "SEQUEL". – user8685 Jan 7 '11 at 13:07
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    No, as I say, originally called SEQUEL, and based on a previous language called QUEL. – ocodo Jan 7 '11 at 13:08
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    So one can earn respect by getting killed in a car crash? – reinierpost Jan 7 '11 at 13:09
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    @Dev Art, call it how you like, I don't mean to impose a "correct" pronunciation, I'm just providing the background, many seem to be under the impression that the SEQUEL pronunciation is a shoe-horned acronym, that was fitted to SQL, but it's the other way around. – ocodo Jan 7 '11 at 13:11
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    @renierpost, sorry, it was a brain aneurism, and no, you get respect for inventing something. The reason I cited his death is because he died before the ANSI committee decided to designate an official pronunciation, something of a controversy at the time. – ocodo Jan 7 '11 at 13:21

The voice in my head (well, one of them) reads that to me as 'select all' as I read it, so that's how I pronounce it.

I think any of the three would convey what you mean, though. I really don't think it matters so long as you are understood.

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When you say English, I presume you mean UK?

If so then:

SQL is pronounced mostly as squel , sometimes it is referred to as es-qu-el

"select star" is usually what I hear in the UK.

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At one time I did NC installations over a large number of computers and operating systems. One of the things that I learned is to feel out the local buzz words and speak to the shop in their local jargon. i.e. A Univac "file" is similar to a PC "folder".
If you're speaking to the masses then the most used is the best.
As an example:

A Poem For Computer Geeks 
< > ! * ' ' #
^ " ` $ $ -
! * = @ $ _
% * < > ~ #4
& [ ] . . /

A Translation for the Mundanes
Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash
Caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash
Bang splat equals at dollar underscore
Percent splat waka waka tilde number four
Ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash
Vertical bar curly brace comma comma crash

This is a good example of how the buzz words get going and change over time. And yes I ran into a bunch of them when I was doing installations.
(Besides that it is a poem with both meter and rhyme.)

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    ack, that thing isn't a vertical bar, it's a PIPE!!!! sheesh – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jan 7 '11 at 18:29
  • my point exactly – Dave Jan 8 '11 at 0:38

I am from US and I call it es-que-el but I have heard it called sequel many times, and even knowing the history I still dislike it.

I also aways call it "select star".

"Select all" can be misleading if you tell someone to type select all they might actually type "select all" and "select asterisk" is a mouthful.

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I might be in the minority, but I read SELECT * as "select everything".

Then again, I also pronounce SQL as "sequel" (except in the case of PostgreSQL, of course). What can I say, I was weaned on ASP and Microsoft SQL Server.

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I live in the USA, in the Pacific Northwest, and I never hear Es-Que-El here.

I initially started out saying Es-Que-El, and every time I heard someone say Sequel it hurt my brain, but since most (if not all) my peers were saying Sequel, including the guys in our database admin shop, I gave up and went with the flow. Nowadays, it is hearing Es-Que-El that hurts my brain.

Additionally, since we use the Microsoft SQL Server product, and apparently nobody says "Es-Que-El Server" (sounds horrible) but all one hears is "Sequel Server".

And in our organization, we say "SELECT Star" for SELECT *.

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I say "SELECT star" and "SEQUEL".

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IMHO, "SEQUEL" really sounds kinky to me, so I say it as "Es-Que-El".

I say "SELECT *" as "select all".

Both of my preferred pronunciation just sounds simple and cool to me.

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There is a contingent of people (they tend, in my experience to have long grey beards) who refer to the "*" character as a "splat".

They also tend to call "!" "bang" and "#" "sharp".

When working with the greybeard I used to work with, hearing "select splat from" wasn't uncommon.

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  • Work with one also. – Chris Mar 9 '11 at 4:48

Select star. And sea quell because it sounds more English than ess-queue-elle (which sounds better with an American accent). My company is called char star as in char*. Star just sounds nice.

We had one of those old people at college (although it was long enough ago that I am now technically old). SQL was a contraction of SEQueL which was Structured English QUEry Language. I've also heard Squirrel used.

As an aside, # as sharp is fine by me as is hash.

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