I'm not sure if this question is appropriate, but anyway here goes.

I want to communicate the number of "data points" in my database. That is every single value, including more generic values such as date_created, date_modified, id, etc. (e.g. sum(table_row_count*number_columns) )

Currently, I have been using the word "data point". However, this can sometimes lead to confusion as often people associate "data point" to a unique value representing some kind of measurement. For example if I am storing weather data, and I said my database has 100 million data points, then some people might assume that I have collected 100 million unique measurements of weather.

Is there a better term instead of "data points"?

1 Answer 1


The term Attribute would be the most appropriate.

Relational Database Theory

Basically, you're talking about columns and 'Column' is most appropriate when talking about the database itself or in SQL terms, however in common parlance this may not be understood by the layperson. 'Field' is a somewhat archaic term that can also be used and is usually associated with forms, but 'Attribute' is the technically correct word in Relational Theory, and would probably be most likely to be convey the meaning that you want to people.

  • Note that "attribute" in the entity-relationship model means a mapping from an entity set or relationship set to a value set, and don't equate to physical columns. In the case of identifying attributes only the value set of the mapping is recorded but for non-identifying attributes we need at least two columns to indicate the subject as well as the value. Additionally, multiple columns can be required for composite keys and/or composite values in a single attribute.
    – reaanb
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 10:32
  • @reaanb although it is true that 'attribute' does not always equate to a column, and not all columns are strictly attributes, it usually does and they usually are. Yes, strictly you can build a database with columns but they would only be 'attributes' when there is data and they are then an element of a tuple/attributed to an entity. I get you point and it is maybe worth noting although it's probably a moot point though. Attribute is still the right term for relational theory and fits the OP's question (both technically and I believe for the purposes of conveying meaning to the layperson).
    – Ian_H
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 7:48

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