In the trigger body, how can I assign a value to NEW by it's field name?
That's what I want to do:

some_key = "some_column";
NEW[some_key] = 5;
  • 1
    I know that, thats why I raised this question. There is a hacky way to access variable from NEW dynamically like this EXECUTE 'SELECT ($1).'||column_name||' ;' INTO some_var USING NEW; but I cant assign to NEW like that. @dezso – Ben Nov 6 '14 at 9:19
  • And @dezso , whenever someone calls map an array - my heart bleeds – Ben Nov 6 '14 at 9:21
  • Yes, but can you access in postgres array by key? Im just saying that some scripts don't show difference between array and map, and I know people that programm such scripts and don't know the difference between those two. – Ben Nov 6 '14 at 9:27
  • Thanks for your comments @dezso, I guess you just can't achieve this in postgres. – Ben Nov 6 '14 at 9:37

First of all, there is no "trigger body" (unlike Oracle). In Postgres you have a trigger function (also called procedure) with a function body and 0-n triggers (without body) calling this function.

The special variable NEW in plpgsql trigger functions is neither a map nor an array; it's a row:


Data type RECORD; variable holding the new database row for INSERT/UPDATE operations in row-level triggers. This variable is unassigned in statement-level triggers and for DELETE operations.

Assigning to field (or column) of NEW is simple. The documented assignment operator is :=. (Since Postgres 9.4 = is also documented.)

NEW.some_key := 5;

What you seem to be looking for is to parameterize the column name, which isn't quite as simple.
The additional module hstore provides the #= operator. (It's included in pretty much all standard distributions.) Install the module once per database with:


Then you can:

NEW := NEW #= '"some_key"=>"5"'::hstore;

Sets the column some_key to '5' - if the column exists.

  • An explicit cast to hstore is optional. The operator #= coerces a string literal to the right data type automatically.
  • hstore only stores text strings, so a given literal for the value may have to be cast twice - a very minor drawback compared to alternative solutions.
  • The given string literal has to fit the data type of the column, or an exception is raised.
  • If no column with the given name exists, nothing is changed, no exception raised.

Related answer with details and an alternative solution:

Code example

  RETURNS trigger AS
   NEW := NEW #= '"some_key"=>"5"';
$func$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

  • I haven't thought about hstore, it's much simpler than my approach. – dezso Nov 6 '14 at 10:15
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    Check out the linked answer. Pavel and I worked hard on a solution before the #= operator was introduced - and found one, too. – Erwin Brandstetter Nov 6 '14 at 10:17
  • I didn't said NEW is a map or array, writing this NEW[some_key] = 5; I was just giving a hint what I want to achieve. The thing with hstore is genius, would never think of it by myself. – Ben Nov 6 '14 at 10:47

I must admit that this is no easy way of solving it, but at least it's a way. I created the below example as a standalone one, to avoid all clutter with trigger creation and such. If you use it in a trigger, you can remove the declaration and initialization of p and replace the remaining use with NEW.

DO $$
DECLARE p members_test; 
    p := (1,2,3);
    CREATE TEMP TABLE t ON COMMIT DROP AS SELECT p.*; -- a one row table holding 
                                                      -- the values of the variable

    EXECUTE format($e$UPDATE t SET %s = 43$e$, 'b'); -- this way you can access 
                                                     -- the columns dynamically

    SELECT * INTO p FROM t; -- assign the new values back to the variable
    RAISE INFO 'p: %', p;

INFO:  p: (1,43,3)

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