12.22.2 DECIMAL Data Type Characteristics

This section discusses the characteristics of the DECIMAL data type (and its synonyms), with particular regard to the following topics:

• Maximum number of digits

• Storage format

• Storage requirements

• The nonstandard MySQL extension to the upper range of DECIMAL columns

The declaration syntax for a DECIMAL column is DECIMAL(M,D). The ranges of values for the arguments are as follows:

• M is the maximum number of digits (the precision). It has a range of 1 to 65.

• D is the number of digits to the right of the decimal point (the scale). It has a range of 0 to 30 and must be no larger than M.

If D is omitted, the default is 0. If M is omitted, the default is 10.

The maximum value of 65 for M means that calculations on DECIMAL values are accurate up to 65 digits. This limit of 65 digits of precision also applies to exact-value numeric literals, so the maximum range of such literals differs from before. (There is also a limit on how long the text of DECIMAL literals can be; see Section 12.22.3, “Expression Handling”.)

Values for DECIMAL columns are stored using a binary format that packs nine decimal digits into 4 bytes. The storage requirements for the integer and fractional parts of each value are determined separately. Each multiple of nine digits requires 4 bytes, and any remaining digits left over require some fraction of 4 bytes. The storage required for remaining digits is given by the following table.

Leftover Digits Number of Bytes
0 0
1–2 1
3–4 2
5–6 3
7–9 4

For example, a DECIMAL(18,9) column has nine digits on either side of the decimal point, so the integer part and the fractional part each require 4 bytes. A DECIMAL(20,6) column has fourteen integer digits and six fractional digits. The integer digits require four bytes for nine of the digits and 3 bytes for the remaining five digits. The six fractional digits require 3 bytes.

DECIMAL columns do not store a leading + character or - character or leading 0 digits. If you insert +0003.1 into a DECIMAL(5,1) column, it is stored as 3.1. For negative numbers, a literal - character is not stored.

DECIMAL columns do not permit values larger than the range implied by the column definition. For example, a DECIMAL(3,0) column supports a range of -999 to 999. A DECIMAL(M,D) column permits up to M - D digits to the left of the decimal point.

The SQL standard requires that the precision of NUMERIC(M,D) be exactly M digits. For DECIMAL(M,D), the standard requires a precision of at least M digits but permits more. In MySQL, DECIMAL(M,D) and NUMERIC(M,D) are the same, and both have a precision of exactly M digits.

For a full explanation of the internal format of DECIMAL values, see the file strings/decimal.c in a MySQL source distribution. The format is explained (with an example) in the decimal2bin() function.