What is Relational Database?

Web Development Jargons Explained in 5 Different Ways

TLDR: A relational database is a type of database structure that organizes data in tables of columns and rows. Each table represents one entity type. Relationships then can be linked between data of each table. Such as books and their authors.


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A relational database is a type of database structure that organizes data in tables of columns and rows. Each table represents one entity type. Relationships then can be linked between data of each table. Such as books and their authors.

Relational databases are popular for building mission critical applications because of its strictness in structural change. Many financial institutions and large internet companies choose to use relational database to reduce risk of data corruption or loss.

Explain like I'm a total nerd

Relational database was created to overcome the pitfalls of an earlier database structure called navigational database. Navigational database lacked the ability for "search" which became a much needed feature as computers got more powerful and applications grew more complex.

A table in a relational database is used to organize data of the same nature. Such as books or authors. Each row in a table contains one data entry, such as one book "Moby-dick". A column will represent an attribute belonging to data in a table, such as "year of publish" which will be "1851" for "Moby-dick".

An attribute can be used to store an identifier belonging to data of other tables. We can store the Author's name "Herman Melville" as an attribute of "Moby-dick" to add the relationship between a book and its author.

ISBN title author Year of Publish
1503280780 Moby-Dick Herman Melville 1851
1400079985 War and Peace Leo Tolstoy 1867
name Country
Herman Melville United States
Leo Tolstoy Russia

Towards the end of 1970s, a standardised language called SQL (Structured Query Language) for managing relation databases was created. Nowadays, almost all relational database systems use SQL for managing the database. The most well known relational database management system include PostgreSQL, mySQL.

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A relational database is like the artefact storage room in a museum. Items are categorized into types. Items of the same types are stored in the same sections.

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Relational database is great for building applications that have zero tolerance for errors. Or if you are a solo back-end engineer, using a relational database can prevent sneaky data corruptions.

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