With T-SQL, I'm trying to find the easiest way to reverse the characters of a string without changing the position of the numeric value.

So for string:



  • 2
    Reversing strings is surprisingly tricky if there are Unicode characters. T-SQL is poorly suited for such a task. Would it be possible to use, say, .Net instead? Either on application level or via CLR?
    – vonPryz
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 16:55
  • 1
    And to ask a silly question, why? Also, what version of SQL Server? Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 17:37
  • I'm using SSMS17, It's just for my personal training I just came up with this scenario to test out my t-sql skills to see if it's possible to solve it with t-sql. Because in other languages we could possibly swap characters within string easily and quickly but I couldn't do it with t-sql.
    – anna
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


I am not proud of this, but you can do it in T-SQL. This inline table-valued function breaks the string into a set of characters, and applies row numbers to just the string values, so that you can flip the set upside down.

  @s varchar(64)
  ( -- get a sequence number for every character in @s
    WITH n AS 
      SELECT n = 1 UNION ALL SELECT n + 1 FROM n WHERE n < LEN(@s)
    s AS 
    ( -- break out each character, apply sequence number, test numeric
      SELECT n, s = SUBSTRING(@s, n, 1), isn = ISNUMERIC(SUBSTRING(@s, n, 1))
      FROM n
    s2 AS
    ( -- apply reverse match pointers, but only for strings
      SELECT n,s, 
        rn1 = CASE WHEN isn = 0 THEN ROW_NUMBER() OVER 
              (PARTITION BY isn ORDER BY n ASC) END,
        rn2 = CASE WHEN isn = 0 THEN ROW_NUMBER() OVER 
              (PARTITION BY isn ORDER BY n DESC) END
      FROM s
    SELECT s2.n, New = COALESCE(s3.s, s2.s), Original = s2.s
        FROM s2 LEFT OUTER JOIN s2 AS s3
        ON s2.rn2 = s3.rn1

The following call:

DECLARE @str varchar(64) = 'abc223de11'; 
SELECT Original, New FROM dbo.SortString(@str) ORDER BY n;

Yields the following results:

Original  New
--------  ---
a         e
b         d
c         c
2         2
2         2
3         3
d         b
e         a
1         1
1         1

In SQL Server 2017, you can pack the string back together with predictable order using STRING_AGG():

DECLARE @str varchar(64) = 'abc223de11'; 

  OriginalString = @str, 
  QuasiReversed = STRING_AGG(New,'') WITHIN GROUP (ORDER BY n) 
FROM dbo.SortString(@str);

In older versions, you'll need to use a FOR XML hack:

DECLARE @str varchar(64) = 'abc223de11'; 

  OriginalString = @str, 
  QuasiReversed = (SELECT '' + New
    FROM dbo.SortString(@str) 
    ORDER BY n
    FOR XML PATH, TYPE).value(N'.[1]','varchar(64)');

Results in both cases:

OriginalString  QuasiReversed
--------------  -------------
abc223de11      edc223ba11

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