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Term for description of SQL tables & fields


What is a good term to describe a single (or set of) document(s) or artifacts which serve as documentation for the plain-english (or at least formal business) description of what the data in a given table & column represent?

For example you have a contracting compay with a very large SQL back end - servers and databases everywhere. You have a table/col called SITES.LASTZONEREVIEW
The documentation should say "This column represents the last date that the governing munipality reviewed or approved the current site's zoning status".

And I don't think "data dictionary" ... everytime someone throws one of those at me, all I get is a very scarce DDL which I can obviously just see in mgmt studio. like the name, datatype, and null contraint.

Looking for any good terms you have heard/used.


Data Dictionary is indeed the term. It is often a separate database or set of documents or sharepoint docs about the database(s)


We have lots of [our own] tables with data about the the tables / columns / indexes / FKeys in the actual database. Plus we have more tables that defined how columns are used on forms - the "Label" to be used on a column, in various languages, that type of thing - plus a table with a list of which tables/columns appear on which forms and whether things like a BIT column should use a Checkbox or a Yes/No dropdown ... and so on and such forth ...

So somewhat wider than just "what's the plain English description for this column" :smile:

Dunno if it is right / best-usage, but we refer to that as Meta Data and collectively we call it the "Metabase"


The sparse DDL you get is due to lazy or time-crunched programmers. "Normally", the schema would be represented with a text description of key fields at an absolute minimum. Kristen is also right. A Data Dictionary should contain meta data.

I am a hard-wired documentor, but am working remotely for a hospital that has had no documentation at all since the new hospital management system software was installed. I comfort my self with well documented stored procedures including the business rules at the top and their implementation comments in-line. If I had permissions to access the area for making a data dictionary, I still couldn't. I also have no write access to the tables, stored procures, functions, or anything else. That doesn't mean I don't miss them.


We use sp_addextendedproperty etc to store a Descriptive Name on all Tables, Column, Indexes etc. This is, somewhat :smile:, easy for us because we have that Meta Data in our APP ...

... but whilst I assume that that information, stored in that manner, might be useful to other people using the database (rather than "using our application") I wonder if ANYTHING EVER actually uses that info??


Thanks, everyone, for your responses. It is helpful to see what is done, ranging from the comments-only to the uber-organized.

Kristen, no offense (in fact I suppose this should be considered a compliment if anything!), whenever you respond you sound like you are in a fantasy world, or a developer's wet dream. I've never seen or heard of any place quite so organized into perfection as yours... Where everything that a developer might hope is in place and there is time granted to perform, especially in the way of review and preparation, IS in place. Wherever it is, for the love of God, tell me when they have an opening! :slight_smile:
(DISCLAIMER - Just a joke, in case my boss peruses these postings!!!)