Database Administrators Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for database professionals who wish to improve their database skills and learn from others in the community. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What does NVL stand for? I'm talking about the Oracle and Informix (perhaps some others too) function used to filter out non NULL values from query results (similar to COALESCE in other databases).

share|improve this question
An interesting comparison of NVL and COALESCE in Oracle:… – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Apr 12 '12 at 15:13
"There is a story here, but I don't remember the names of the X3H2 [SQL standard] Committee members involved. We came up with this function because everyone had an NVL() or IFNULL() or something in their product and we wanted a standard syntax for it. Someone else generalized it to a list, but nobody coudl come up with a name we all liked... someone pulled out a Thesaurus and started looking for a single word that nobody would use for a table name, column name or other function and that was not used in any existing product. You know who the winner was now [i.e. COALESCE]" -- Joe Celko. – onedaywhen Apr 13 '12 at 10:10
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Quite simply: Null VaLue

The function substitutes any NULLs in a given resultset column with the value given as the second parameter.

share|improve this answer
Do you have a citation for this or are you merely guessing? – onedaywhen Apr 13 '12 at 9:48

"Null Value Logic" according to, but most of the other references I have found support Phil's "Null Value" supposition. I haven't found a definitive origin.

share|improve this answer

NVL Stands for Null Value Locator

share|improve this answer
Please support your answer with documentation. – Chris Aldrich Oct 21 '13 at 16:32

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.