When creating a database without specifying a character set or collation the servers defaults are used (as expected).

MariaDB [(none)]> SHOW VARIABLES LIKE '%_server' ;
| Variable_name        | Value              |
| character_set_server | utf8mb4            |
| collation_server     | utf8mb4_unicode_ci |

MariaDB [(none)]> CREATE DATABASE `test-without-charset` ;
MariaDB [(none)]> SELECT `DEFAULT_COLLATION_NAME` FROM `information_schema`.`SCHEMATA` WHERE `SCHEMA_NAME` LIKE 'test-without-charset';
| utf8mb4_unicode_ci     |

However, when specifying the character set within the CREATE DATABASE-query, the default collation changes to utf8mb4_general_ci.

MariaDB [(none)]> CREATE DATABASE `test-with-charset` CHARACTER SET utf8mb4 ;
MariaDB [(none)]> SELECT `DEFAULT_COLLATION_NAME` FROM `information_schema`.`SCHEMATA` WHERE `SCHEMA_NAME` LIKE 'test-with-charset';
| utf8mb4_general_ci     |

I already found out that (mysql-manual)

If CHARACTER SET charset_name is specified without COLLATE, character set charset_name and its default collation are used. To see the default collation for each character set, use the SHOW CHARACTER SET statement or query the INFORMATION_SCHEMA CHARACTER_SETS table.

And indeed it shows utf8mb4_general_ci, so it is following the rules

MariaDB [(none)]> SHOW CHARACTER SET LIKE 'utf8mb4';
| Charset | Description   | Default collation  | Maxlen |
| utf8mb4 | UTF-8 Unicode | utf8mb4_general_ci |      4 |

So my question is: How do I change this default collation for the character set utf8mb4. Is there some configuration-file I can change to alter this behaviour? I'd really like those two to be consistent.

Off course I tried Google to find anything relevant, but all I can find is changing the collation_server-setting.

Server version: 10.3.15-MariaDB-log MariaDB Server

2 Answers 2


I don't think there is a way to change that DEFAULT.

Anyway, it would be better to use utf8mb4_unicode_520_ci, which is based on a later Unicode standard.

Just get into the habit of specifying CHARACTER SET and COLLATION on all connections and CREATE TABLEs. MySQL and MariaDB are gradually changing from latin1_swedish_ci to utf8mb4_0900_ai_ci. MariaDB is not there yet, but I expect them to move soon. And "900" is probably not the last Unicode standard.

By explicitly specifying the charset and collation, you maintain control and consistency, even if it is an out-dated pair.

A compromise...

But charset and collation on CREATE DATABASE. Then any tables built without specific settings will inherit those settings. And columns within that table will inherit from the table's settings.

  • To be honest not the answer I was hoping for ;) But thanks anyway. I acknowledge that specifying the collation every CREATE-query is best, but in a work environment it's mostly easier to set up a good default than to learn every (current and future) developer a good habit. Thanks for the tip on utf8mb4_unicode_520_ci, we're migrating from utf8 so it's best to do it correct right away. Jun 6, 2019 at 15:28
  • @PetervanderWal - See my "compromise".
    – Rick James
    Jun 7, 2019 at 4:29

Option 1

  1. IF you are using MySQL 8.0.11 or newer (not sure how that equates to MariaDB 10.3.15), and
  2. IF you are ok using utf8mb4_0900_ai_ci instead of utf8mb4_unicode_ci

then it seems that a server system variable — @@default_collation_for_utf8mb4 — was added in 8.0.11, but the only valid values are:

  • utf8mb4_general_ci
  • utf8mb4_0900_ai_ci

However, if you are seeing a default collation of utf8mb4_general_ci for utf8mb4 instead of utf8mb4_0900_ai_ci, then I am guessing that you don't have this new system variable.

Option 2

The documentation does show a mechanism for defining your own UCA collation, though it is unclear if this can be used to override a default. I can't test it, but it's worth looking into:

Putting that all together, the following might work (but again, I have no way to test):

<charset name="utf8mb4">
  <description>UTF-8 MB4 Unicode</description>
  <collation name="utf8mb4_unicode_ci" id="224">
  <collation name="utf8mb4_general_ci" id="45">
  <collation name="utf8mb4_bin"     id="46">
  <collation name="utf8mb4_unicode_520_ci"     id="246">

Now, the documentation does state:

You must assign a unique ID number to each collation. The range of IDs from 1024 to 2047 is reserved for user-defined collations. To find the maximum of the currently used collation IDs, use this query:


However, I used the actual IDs with the idea being that we are merely changing the default, not starting with a base collation and adding new rules. I found the IDs here;


Option 3

If all else fails, I would post this question to the following MySQL forum as it looks like you will get rather authoritative answers (based on who is answering some of those questions):

MySQL Forums: Character Sets, Collation, Unicode

  • Thanks for your comprehensive answer, I will dive into this when I'm back at the office tomorrow morning Jun 6, 2019 at 17:14
  • I'm pretty sure MariaDB has not yet picked up the 8.0 character set overhaul. (I expect it to be a nontrivial port.)
    – Rick James
    Jun 7, 2019 at 4:32
  • Again thanks for your answer, sadly it doesn't work out. The default_collation_for_utf8mb4 setting isn't ported to MariaDB (yet): ERROR 1193 (HY000): Unknown system variable. Option 2 kinda works in the sense that SELECT * FROM information_schema.COLLATIONS WHERE CHARACTER_SET_NAME = 'utf8mb4' ; shows utf8mb4_unicode_ci as IS_DEFAULT: Yes, but also shows the same for utf8mb4_general_ci - so now I have 2 defaults (actually 4, all collations were listed twice) and effectively utf8mb4_general_ci is still being used. It looks like what I want is not (yet) supported for MariaDB Jun 7, 2019 at 8:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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