Use singular nouns for database table names

A common debate in relational database circles is whether the names of tables should be singular or plural. If you have a table that stores users, should the table be called user or users?

The arguments for plural are straightforward:

  1. The table is storing more than one user.

  2. It reads well in the FROM clause:

    SELECT id, name
    FROM users;

The arguments for singular are more subtle:

  1. Strictly speaking, we’re not naming a table, we’re naming a relation. We’re describing the relationship between the user’s ID, their name, their address, and so on. And there’s only one relation for user data. It happens that once we’ve described the user relation, we can use it for many users.

  2. It reads well everywhere else in the SQL query:

    SELECT id, name
    FROM user
    JOIN country ON user.country_id =
    WHERE = 'Canada';

    That would make less sense if the ON clause read users.country_id.

  3. The name of the class you’ll store the data into is singular (User). You therefore have a mismatch, and in ORMs (e.g., Rails) they often automatically pluralize, with the predictable result of seeing tables with names like addresss.

  4. Some relations are already plural. Say you have a class called UserFacts that store miscellaneous information about a user, like age and favorite color. What will you call the database table?

The last argument above is the strongest, because it only takes one such exception to wreck an entire schema’s consistency. You won’t run into problems with singular, now or later.