Postgres has the ability to define SERIAL datatypes and SEQUENCE but they seem to overlap in function. What are the main differences ?


1 Answer 1


serial is purely a shorthand way to create an integer column with an associated sequence for its default values.

The documentation for serial linked from the question even says as much:

The data types smallserial, serial and bigserial are not true types, but merely a notational convenience for creating unique identifier columns (similar to the AUTO_INCREMENT property supported by some other databases). In the current implementation, specifying:

CREATE TABLE tablename (
    colname SERIAL

is equivalent to specifying:

CREATE SEQUENCE tablename_colname_seq;
CREATE TABLE tablename (
    colname integer NOT NULL DEFAULT nextval('tablename_colname_seq')
ALTER SEQUENCE tablename_colname_seq OWNED BY tablename.colname;
  • That's very interesting, because there is no mention of a "unique" constraint in there. That seems to imply that using the "serial" type (notational shorthand, not really type) does not guarantee uniqueness—an important point.
    – Wildcard
    Dec 22, 2017 at 2:21

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