Is there an ANSI standard for auto-numbered columns.

Currently, we have a choice of SERIAL, AUTOINCREMENT, AUTO_INCREMENT, IDENTITY() and good old NEXTVAL() among others.

I read somewhere that there is a new standard using IDENTITY which I know that Oracle has recently implemented. I know that Oracle is hardly the last word on standards.

If there is a standard, then it’s a long time coming.

1 Answer 1


Yes there is, and it's definitely not "a new standard". It's been in the SQL standard since SQL:2003

The definition is:

<identity column specification> ::=
    [ <left paren> <common sequence generator options> <right paren> ]

The optional part with the sequence generator options lets you define the characteristics of the underlying sequence (=generator), you could do something like:

id integer GENERATED ALWAYS AS IDENTITY (start with 42 increment by 10 cycle)

This syntax is supported (at least) by PostgreSQL 10, Oracle 12.1, DB2, Apache Derby, HSQLDB, Firebird and NuoDB.


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