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When I was learning SQL, I remember reading that it should be pronounced just like the word sequel; however, I worked with a bunch of techs who seemed to prefer S-Q-L. Is there a proper convention for this?

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5 Answers 5

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The first version/draft of SQL was in fact called Structured English Query Language and the acronym was SEQUEL. Due to trademark violations on the acronym, the name was changed to Structured Query Language and abbreviated as SQL.

So it was intended to be pronounced as SEQUEL at first. Nowadays it's a matter of preference. There is no standard set for it (yet).

Some urban legends say that the Structured Query Language was actually a sequel to the previous Query Language and that the SQL acronym is intended to be pronounced as sequel.

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    Note that implementations may have their own preferences. C.f. MySQL: The official way to pronounce “MySQL” is “My Ess Que Ell” (not “my sequel”), but we do not mind if you pronounce it as “my sequel” or in some other localized way.
    – mmyers
    Dec 21, 2010 at 20:47
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    The name wasn't changed to Standard Query Language, the name is still Structured Query language. Dec 22, 2010 at 12:34
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    I've seen people define the acronym recursively, where the S is supposed to stand for SQL. However, if you look at the old specs, it's clear that the S stood (and still stands) for Structured. (Not "Standard"!)
    – Marthaª
    Dec 22, 2010 at 15:15
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    This is not entirely correct. "Es queue el" IS standard. In the SQL standard, the American National Standards Institute says that the official pronunciation is "es queue el." Anything else is considered non-standard; common, yes, but still slang. Dec 22, 2010 at 18:03
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    This came up in conversation today. I notice that wikipedia specifically says 'The original SQL standard declared that the official pronunciation for SQL is "es queue el".' This leads me to wonder whether or not more recent revisions of the standard specify what the official pronunciation is, though I don't have a reference to any of the revisions of the ANSI standard to check for myself. Jan 12, 2011 at 22:11
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According to the Computer Contradictionary (Stan Kelly-Bootle, MIT Press, 1995) :-

those pronouncing SQL as \ess-kew-ell\ rather than \sequel\ are instantly revealed as charlatans incapable of confuting the six and seventy jarring normal forms. Those who have really suffered are allowed to say \squeal\

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In my experience, people coming from a Unix-y background (Postgres, MySQL) will be more likely to say "S-Q-L", while people from a Microsoft background (SQL Server) are more likely to say "Sequel".

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    I know people who use both: it's MyEssQueueEll but Sequel-server. Dec 22, 2010 at 14:54
  • Indeed. I suppose that was what I was trying to convey, really. I blame the marketing department :). Dec 22, 2010 at 15:31
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    If I say "my-sequel," do I go to DLL hell?
    – Tortoise
    Nov 5, 2012 at 0:25
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My nephew, who's a manager at Microsoft and who both knows a modest amount of SQL and hires many SQL programmers (SQL Server/TSQL, of course), was totally flummoxed when I brought up the 'Es Que El' argument. He'd never heard it said that way and assumed I knew nothing about it if I "didn't realize it was pronounced sequel". To him, it was as if you came in to interview about "C pound sign" programming.

You can laugh about his lack of depth on the origin of the term but he just might be representative of many hiring managers—and that's what counts! I've also done general techie contracts at Amazon.com (an Oracle house, not SQL Server ) in Seattle and sequel is what I hear there too, at least by the front line troops and in the Data Warehouse training films I've seen. (Disclaimer: I don't know what the actual production SQL people call it there.)

All I can say is that you might consider throwing both terms around when you're interviewing, then you can get all purist on them later.

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    // , Upvoted for relating this to the tricky interviewing. Dec 14, 2015 at 21:28
  • "See Pound Sign" Ha! That would be super embarrassing.
    – Krythic
    Feb 15, 2018 at 20:29
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Either. You say potato, I say pough-tagh-toe.

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    You say potato, I say raw french fry.
    – mmyers
    Dec 22, 2010 at 0:01
  • I say "pottit".
    – awe
    Nov 4, 2011 at 8:18
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    I say "Kartoffel." Mar 12, 2013 at 8:19
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    You say potato, I say ghloughbteighwhpteaux… Mar 7, 2014 at 9:59
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    @Janus Ahh ... so much more beautiful in the original Irish.
    – Mitch
    Mar 7, 2014 at 13:11

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