Appendix G. Regular Expressions

A regular expression is a powerful way of specifying a pattern for a complex search.

MySQL uses Henry Spencer's implementation of regular expressions, which is aimed at conformance with POSIX 1003.2. See Appendix C, Credits. MySQL uses the extended version to support pattern-matching operations performed with the REGEXP operator in SQL statements. See Section, “Pattern Matching”, and Section 12.3.1, “String Comparison Functions”.

This appendix is a summary, with examples, of the special characters and constructs that can be used in MySQL for REGEXP operations. It does not contain all the details that can be found in Henry Spencer's regex(7) manual page. That manual page is included in MySQL source distributions, in the regex.7 file under the regex directory.

A regular expression describes a set of strings. The simplest regular expression is one that has no special characters in it. For example, the regular expression hello matches hello and nothing else.

Non-trivial regular expressions use certain special constructs so that they can match more than one string. For example, the regular expression hello|word matches either the string hello or the string word.

As a more complex example, the regular expression B[an]*s matches any of the strings Bananas, Baaaaas, Bs, and any other string starting with a B, ending with an s, and containing any number of a or n characters in between.

A regular expression for the REGEXP operator may use any of the following special characters and constructs:

To use a literal instance of a special character in a regular expression, precede it by two backslash (\) characters. The MySQL parser interprets one of the backslashes, and the regular expression library interprets the other. For example, to match the string 1+2 that contains the special + character, only the last of the following regular expressions is the correct one:

mysql> SELECT '1+2' REGEXP '1+2';                       -> 0
mysql> SELECT '1+2' REGEXP '1\+2';                      -> 0
mysql> SELECT '1+2' REGEXP '1\\+2';                     -> 1