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This reference covers CQL specification version 3.3.1


To aid in specifying the CQL syntax, we will use the following conventions in this document:

  • Language rules will be given in an informal BNF variant notation. In particular, we’ll use square brackets ([ item ]) for optional items, * and + for repeated items (where + imply at least one).

  • The grammar will also use the following convention for convenience: non-terminal term will be lowercase (and link to their definition) while terminal keywords will be provided “all caps”. Note, however, that keywords are Identifiers and keywords and are thus case insensitive in practice. We will also define some early construction using regexp, which we’ll indicate with re(<some regular expression>).

  • The grammar is provided for documentation purposes and leaves some minor details out. For instance, the comma on the last column definition in a CREATE TABLE statement is optional but supported if present even though the grammar in this document suggests otherwise. Also, not everything accepted by the grammar is necessarily valid CQL.

  • References to keywords or pieces of CQL code in running text will be shown in a fixed-width font.

Identifiers and keywords

The CQL language uses identifiers (or names) to identify tables, columns, and other objects. An identifier is a token matching the regular expression [a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]*.

A number of such identifiers, like SELECT or WITH, are keywords. They have a fixed meaning for the language, and most are reserved. The list of those keywords can be found in Appendix A: CQL Keywords.

Identifiers and (unquoted) keywords are case insensitive. Thus SELECT is the same as select or sElEcT, and myId is the same than myid or MYID. A convention often used (in particular by the samples of this documentation) is to use upper case for keywords and lower case for other identifiers.

There is a second kind of identifier called quoted identifiers, defined by enclosing an arbitrary sequence of characters (non-empty) in double-quotes("). Quoted identifiers are never keywords. Thus "select" is not a reserved keyword and can be used to refer to a column (note that using this is particularly advised), while select would raise a parsing error. Also, contrary to unquoted identifiers and keywords, quoted identifiers are case sensitive ("My Quoted Id" is different from "my quoted id"). A fully lowercase quoted identifier that matches [a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]* is, however, equivalent to the unquoted identifier obtained by removing the double-quote (so "myid" is equivalent to myid and to myId but different from "myId"). Inside a quoted identifier, the double-quote character can be repeated to escape it, so "foo "" bar" is a valid identifier.


quoted identifiers allow to declare columns with arbitrary names, and those can sometimes clash with specific names used by the server. For instance, when using a conditional update, the server will respond with a result-set containing a special result named "[applied]". If you’ve declared a column with such a name, this could potentially confuse some tools and should be avoided. In general, unquoted identifiers should be preferred, but if you use quoted identifiers, it is strongly advised to avoid any name enclosed by squared brackets (like "[applied]") and any name that looks like a function call (like "f(x)").

More formally, we have:

identifier          ::=  unquoted_identifier | quoted_identifier
unquoted_identifier ::=  re('[a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]*')
quoted_identifier   ::=  '"' (any character where " can appear if doubled)+ '"'


CQL defines the following kind of constants:

constant: `string` | `integer` | `float` | `boolean` | `uuid` | `blob` | NULL

string: '\'' (any character where ' can appear if doubled)+ '\''
      : '$$' (any character other than '$$') '$$'

integer: re('-?[0-9]+')

float: re('-?[0-9]+(\.[0-9]*)?([eE][+-]?[0-9+])?') | NAN | INFINITY

boolean: TRUE | FALSE

uuid: `hex`{8}-`hex`{4}-`hex`{4}-`hex`{4}-`hex`{12}

hex: re("[0-9a-fA-F]")

blob: '0' ('x' | 'X') `hex`+

In other words:

  • A string constant is an arbitrary sequence of characters enclosed by single-quote('). A single-quote can be included by repeating it, e.g. 'It''s raining today'. Those are not to be confused with quoted Identifiers and keywords that use double-quotes. Alternatively, a string can be defined by enclosing the arbitrary sequence of characters by two dollar characters, in which case single-quote can be used without escaping ($$It's raining today$$). That latter form is often used when defining user-defined functions to avoid having to escape single-quote characters in function body (as they are more likely to occur than $$).

  • Integer, float, and boolean constant are defined as expected. Note, however, than float allows the special NaN and Infinity constants.

  • CQL supports UUID constants.

  • Blob content types are provided in hexadecimal and prefixed by 0x.

  • The special NULL constant denotes the absence of value.

For how these constants are typed, see the data-types document.


CQL has the notion of a term, which denotes the kind of values that CQL support. Terms are defined by:

term: `constant` | `literal` | `function_call` | `arithmetic_operation` | `type_hint` | `bind_marker`

literal: `collection_literal` | `udt_literal` | `tuple_literal`

function_call: `identifier` '(' [ `term` (',' `term`)* ] ')'

arithmetic_operation: '-' `term` | `term` ('+' | '-' | '*' | '/' | '%') `term`

type_hint: '(' `cql_type` `)` term

bind_marker: '?' | ':' `identifier`

A term is thus one of:

  • A constant.

  • A literal for either a collection, a user-defined type or a tuple (see the linked sections for details).

  • An arithmetic operation between terms.

  • A type hint

  • A bind marker, which denotes a variable to be bound at execution time. See the section on Prepared Statements for details. A bind marker can be either anonymous (?) or named (:some_name). The latter form provides a more convenient way to refer to the variable for binding it and should generally be preferred.


A comment in CQL is a line beginning by either double dashes (--) or double slash (//).

Multi-line comments are also supported through enclosure within /* and */ (but nesting is not supported).

-- This is a comment
// This is a comment too
/* This is
   a multi-line comment */


CQL consists of statements that can be divided into the following categories:

  • Data Definition statements - to define and change how the data is stored (keyspaces and tables).

  • Data Manipulation statements - for selecting, inserting and deleting data.

  • Permissions statements.

  • cql-triggers statements.

All the statements are listed below and are described in the rest of this documentation (see links above):

cql_statement: `statement` [ ';' ]
statement: `ddl_statement`
         : | `dml_statement`
         : | `secondary_index_statement`
         : | `materialized_view_statement`
         : | `role_or_permission_statement`
         : | `udf_statement`
         : | `udt_statement`
         : | `trigger_statement`
ddl_statement: `use_statement`
             : | `create_keyspace_statement`
             : | `alter_keyspace_statement`
             : | `drop_keyspace_statement`
             : | `create_table_statement`
             : | `alter_table_statement`
             : | `drop_table_statement`
             : | `truncate_statement`
 dml_statement: `select_statement`
              : | `insert_statement`
              : | `update_statement`
              : | `delete_statement`
              : | `batch_statement`
 trigger_statement: `create_trigger_statement`
                  : | `drop_trigger_statement`

Prepared Statements

CQL supports prepared statements. Prepared statements are an optimization that allows parsing a query only once but executes it multiple times with different concrete values.

Any statement that uses at least one bind marker (see bind_marker) will need to be prepared. After which, the statement can be executed by provided concrete values for each of its markers. The exact details of how a statement is prepared and then executed depends on the CQL driver used, and you should refer to your driver documentation.

© 2016, The Apache Software Foundation.

Apache Cassandra Query Language