In this example I have a table called "Zones"

create table stk_zones (
    ZoneId int not null auto_increment,
    Primary Key (ZoneId),
    ZoneName varchar(255),
    Height int,
    Width int,
    Description varchar(255)

Inside this zones table I add a few records:

insert into stk_zones (ZoneName, Height, Width, Description)
values ('Zone A', 100, 200, 'First Zone!'), ('Zone B', 50, 50, 'Second Zone!'), ('Zone C', 50, 100, 'Third Zone!');

What would be the best way to show that Zone B is nested inside of Zone A? They share the same properties so I want to keep them in the same table.

Would the best option be a secondary table, something like:

create table stk_zone_relations (
    ZoneRelationId int not null auto_increment,
    Primary Key (ZoneRelationId),
    ParentZoneId int,
    Foreign Key (ParentZoneId) references stk_zones (ZoneId),
    ChildZoneId int,
    Foreign Key (ChildZoneId) references stk_zones (ZoneId)

Not sure proper principals in this sort of scenario.

1 Answer 1


If a zone can have only one parent, then you have a many:one relationship. That is implemented with just ParentId linking to ZibeId.

If you have zones that belong to multiple other zones (overlapping?), then it sounds more like "many:many". That requires an extra table with 2 columns - each being a ZoneId. See Many-to-many for index advice.

  • In this case the Zone can have a parent, or no parent. So I think the Many-To-Many would be the case. I think the part I am thrown off is with the Many-To-Many table having the relationship just be coming from the single table.
    – Travis
    Jul 31 at 18:45
  • @Travis "the Zone can have a parent, or no parent. So I think the Many-To-Many would be the case" - No this would be Zero-Or-One-To-Many which can be implicitly simplified by saying One-To-Many. You can accomplish your goal with a nullable foreign key ParentZoneId field in your Zones table, like Rick mentions.
    – J.D.
    Jul 31 at 18:54
  • Then in case the zone can be in multiple parents, would require a second table for a Many-To-Many? @J.D.
    – Travis
    Jul 31 at 18:58
  • 1
    Yup, just trying to ask questions about other scenarios. Thank you.
    – Travis
    Jul 31 at 19:03
  • 1
    1:many with lack of a parent can be represented by NULL (and still involve only 1 table). That is, I agree with J.D.
    – Rick James
    Jul 31 at 19:38

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