I have a table, employee, and one of the columns is last_name, which stores strings.

Using a SELECT query, I am trying to get the last_name column, ordered alphabetically, as one column, and another column, again last_name, this time ordered in reverse alphabetical order.

The desired result looks something like

| last name       | last name      |
|  Apple          | Xylophone      |

I have tried

SELECT a.last_name, b.last_name
FROM employee A
LEFT JOIN employee B
ON a.last_name = b.last_name
ORDER BY a.last_name, b.last_name DESC;

Which, of course, doesn't work, because it orders both columns by last_name in alphabetical order, and doesn't even get to the other order condition because the syntax specifies that condition n is only used if some rows are equal under condition n-1.

In my head, I see this as something like

SELECT last_name 
FROM employee 
ORDER BY last_name;


SELECT last_name 
FROM employee 
ORDER BY last_name DESC;

But I don't know how to combine the two. When I UNION these two queries, I get the right data, but it's in the form of two columns concatenated into one, when I need both columns kept distinct.

I tried using a JOIN, here, which was a total shot in the dark as I've never seen syntax like this:

(SELECT a.last_name 
FROM employee a 
ORDER BY a.last_name 
(SELECT b.last_name 
FROM employee b 
ORDER BY b.last_name DESC 
ON a.last_name = b.last_name;

and of course that didn't work either. So I have no clue on how to proceed.

  • Can you provide a sample of the data you are using? Have you tried SELECT MIN(Last_Name), MAX(Last_Name) FROM employee?
    – user212533
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 20:23
  • I don't fully understand what you're trying to do. Are you trying to merge all last_names? Please share a sample data, you can use something like this: dbfiddle.uk/uUrg--Ep Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 20:24
  • @bbaird That is actually exactly what I needed. Thank you
    – m. lekk
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 20:26

1 Answer 1


One way to solve this is using ROW_NUMBER() function, available in MySQL version 8.0. We can get row numbers with the different orders in two subqueries (derived tables or CTEs) and then join them.

Tested in dbfiddle.uk:

  a AS
        ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY last_name) AS rn
    FROM employee 
  d AS
        ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY last_name DESC) AS rn
    FROM employee 
    a.last_name AS last_name_a,
    d.last_name AS last_name_d
FROM a JOIN d USING (rn) ;

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