I use Postgres JSONB columns to store translations for dynamic content of a multi-language site — locales are keys, translated strings are values ({"en": "Hello", "ru": "Привет"}).

There're some rare cases when I want to ensure that each translation is unique per locale. I know that I can create an index for each locale:

CREATE UNIQUE INDEX ON categories ((title ->> 'en'));
CREATE UNIQUE INDEX ON categories ((title ->> 'ru'));

This solution has one downside that I would need to create a new index for every column which has such constraint if I decide to add a new locale. Is there any way to specify a uniqueness constraint that will hold for every key-value pair of a JSONB object?

EDIT 1 (in response to the Evan's answer). There seems to be some sort of confusion cased by the term "unique/duplicate translation per locale", so I will try to clarify it. "Unique translation per locale" means: for every locale of each record in the table, there is no other record that has exactly the same translation for that locale. "Locale" is the key of the JSONB object that holds translations. "Translation" is the value of the JSONB object.

Here are some examples: the code

INSERT INTO categories(title) VALUES
  ('{"en": "Hello"}'),
  ('{"en": "Hello"}');

should yield a uniqueness constraint violation error because it has duplicate "Hello" translation for the en locale, while the code

INSERT INTO categories(title) VALUES
  ('{"en": "Hello"}'),
  ('{"en": "Hi"}');

should not, because it has different translations for the en locale.

  • 1
    What if one row has a {"en": "Hello", "ru": "Привет"} and the other one has a {"en": "Hello", "fr": "Frog Nonsense"} should the row that only partially overlaps collide or not? Sep 6, 2017 at 9:12
  • Yes, it should, as it has duplicate translation for the "en" locale, so it violates the "each translation is unique per locale" rule.
    – nameless
    Sep 6, 2017 at 9:29
  • got it working see my answer. Sep 6, 2017 at 17:57
  • is title just name:value pairs? Sep 7, 2017 at 11:40
  • Yes, title is locale -> translation pairs which holds translations of category title in different locales, for example: {"en": "Programming", "ru": "Программирование"}.
    – nameless
    Sep 7, 2017 at 12:01

1 Answer 1


Failed attempt with Exclusion Constraints

I don't believe this is possible to do this with exclusion DDL because I don't believe PostgreSQL supports exclusion constraints on text[]

CREATE TABLE categories(title)
  ('{"en": "Hello", "ru": "Привет"}'::jsonb);

Helper function

CREATE FUNCTION jsonb_object_keys_as_array(j JSONB)
RETURNS text[]
AS $$
  SELECT ARRAY( SELECT jsonb_object_keys(j) AS d );

Exclusion constraint attempt.

ALTER TABLE categories
  USING gist (jsonb_object_keys_as_array(title) WITH &&);

ERROR:  data type text[] has no default operator class for access method "gist"
HINT:  You must specify an operator class for the index or define a default operator class for the data type.

I'm asking a more specific question on this right now.

Other solutions

As it pertains to your problem, I believe currently you'll have to resort to a less than optimal solution like,

  • Implement this with triggers.
  • Create a function that may or may not use a table or enum to resolve text -> int and then map over text[] returning int[] and use intarray which will permit a GIST index and &&

Or, of course, you can just fix your schema.


This method should also be able to make use of a GIST index on catagories(title)

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION resist_duplicate_languages()
AS $$
    collision bool DEFAULT false;
      FORMAT('SELECT true FROM %I.%I WHERE ctid <> $1 AND title ?| jsonb_object_keys_as_array($2) LIMIT 1', TG_TABLE_SCHEMA, TG_TABLE_NAME )
      INTO collision
      USING NEW.ctid, NEW.title;

    IF collision IS true THEN
      RAISE EXCEPTION 'Can not collide on language %.%(title) languages %', TG_TABLE_SCHEMA, TG_TABLE_NAME, jsonb_object_keys_as_array(NEW.title);
    END IF;

    RETURN null;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

CREATE TRIGGER resist_duplicate_languages
  ON categories
  EXECUTE PROCEDURE resist_duplicate_languages();


INSERT INTO categories VALUES ('{"fr":"We surrender and eat cheese"}');

//does not work a second time
INSERT INTO categories VALUES ('{"fr":"We surrender and eat cheese"}');
ERROR:  Can not collide on language public.categories(title) languages {fr}
  • Thank you for you answer, it definitely works, but unfortunately it solves another problem, not mine. I believe its my fault that I was not clear enough, so I tried to clarify some terms, see my edit.
    – nameless
    Sep 7, 2017 at 9:09
  • I have little to no expirience with PostgreSQL triggers, so I'm sorry if I ask stupid questions, but wouldn't resist_duplicate_languages be subject to race conditions?
    – nameless
    Sep 7, 2017 at 9:14

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