12.2.2. DELETE Syntax

Single-table syntax:

    [WHERE where_condition]
    [ORDER BY ...]
    [LIMIT row_count]

Multiple-table syntax:

    tbl_name[.*] [, tbl_name[.*]] ...
    FROM table_references
    [WHERE where_condition]


    FROM tbl_name[.*] [, tbl_name[.*]] ...
    USING table_references
    [WHERE where_condition]

For the single-table syntax, the DELETE statement deletes rows from tbl_name and returns a count of the number of deleted rows. This count can be obtained by calling the ROW_COUNT() function (see Section 11.14, “Information Functions”). The WHERE clause, if given, specifies the conditions that identify which rows to delete. With no WHERE clause, all rows are deleted. If the ORDER BY clause is specified, the rows are deleted in the order that is specified. The LIMIT clause places a limit on the number of rows that can be deleted.

For the multiple-table syntax, DELETE deletes from each tbl_name the rows that satisfy the conditions. In this case, ORDER BY and LIMIT cannot be used.

where_condition is an expression that evaluates to true for each row to be deleted. It is specified as described in Section 12.2.9, “SELECT Syntax”.

Currently, you cannot delete from a table and select from the same table in a subquery.

You need the DELETE privilege on a table to delete rows from it. You need only the SELECT privilege for any columns that are only read, such as those named in the WHERE clause.

As stated, a DELETE statement with no WHERE clause deletes all rows. A faster way to do this, when you do not need to know the number of deleted rows, is to use TRUNCATE TABLE. However, within a transaction or if you have a lock on the table, TRUNCATE TABLE cannot be used whereas DELETE can. See Section 12.1.27, “TRUNCATE TABLE Syntax”, and Section 12.3.5, “LOCK TABLES and UNLOCK TABLES Syntax”.

If you delete the row containing the maximum value for an AUTO_INCREMENT column, the value is not reused for a MyISAM or InnoDB table. If you delete all rows in the table with DELETE FROM tbl_name (without a WHERE clause) in autocommit mode, the sequence starts over for all storage engines except InnoDB and MyISAM. There are some exceptions to this behavior for InnoDB tables, as discussed in Section, “AUTO_INCREMENT Handling in InnoDB.

For MyISAM tables, you can specify an AUTO_INCREMENT secondary column in a multiple-column key. In this case, reuse of values deleted from the top of the sequence occurs even for MyISAM tables. See Section 3.6.9, “Using AUTO_INCREMENT.

The DELETE statement supports the following modifiers:

  • If you specify LOW_PRIORITY, the server delays execution of the DELETE until no other clients are reading from the table. This affects only storage engines that use only table-level locking (such as MyISAM, MEMORY, and MERGE).

  • For MyISAM tables, if you use the QUICK keyword, the storage engine does not merge index leaves during delete, which may speed up some kinds of delete operations.

  • The IGNORE keyword causes MySQL to ignore all errors during the process of deleting rows. (Errors encountered during the parsing stage are processed in the usual manner.) Errors that are ignored due to the use of IGNORE are returned as warnings.

The speed of delete operations may also be affected by factors discussed in Section, “Speed of DELETE Statements”.

In MyISAM tables, deleted rows are maintained in a linked list and subsequent INSERT operations reuse old row positions. To reclaim unused space and reduce file sizes, use the OPTIMIZE TABLE statement or the myisamchk utility to reorganize tables. OPTIMIZE TABLE is easier to use, but myisamchk is faster. See Section, “OPTIMIZE TABLE Syntax”, and Section 4.6.3, “myisamchk — MyISAM Table-Maintenance Utility”.

The QUICK modifier affects whether index leaves are merged for delete operations. DELETE QUICK is most useful for applications where index values for deleted rows are replaced by similar index values from rows inserted later. In this case, the holes left by deleted values are reused.

DELETE QUICK is not useful when deleted values lead to underfilled index blocks spanning a range of index values for which new inserts occur again. In this case, use of QUICK can lead to wasted space in the index that remains unreclaimed. Here is an example of such a scenario:

  1. Create a table that contains an indexed AUTO_INCREMENT column.

  2. Insert many rows into the table. Each insert results in an index value that is added to the high end of the index.

  3. Delete a block of rows at the low end of the column range using DELETE QUICK.

In this scenario, the index blocks associated with the deleted index values become underfilled but are not merged with other index blocks due to the use of QUICK. They remain underfilled when new inserts occur, because new rows do not have index values in the deleted range. Furthermore, they remain underfilled even if you later use DELETE without QUICK, unless some of the deleted index values happen to lie in index blocks within or adjacent to the underfilled blocks. To reclaim unused index space under these circumstances, use OPTIMIZE TABLE.

If you are going to delete many rows from a table, it might be faster to use DELETE QUICK followed by OPTIMIZE TABLE. This rebuilds the index rather than performing many index block merge operations.

The MySQL-specific LIMIT row_count option to DELETE tells the server the maximum number of rows to be deleted before control is returned to the client. This can be used to ensure that a given DELETE statement does not take too much time. You can simply repeat the DELETE statement until the number of affected rows is less than the LIMIT value.

If the DELETE statement includes an ORDER BY clause, rows are deleted in the order specified by the clause. This is useful primarily in conjunction with LIMIT. For example, the following statement finds rows matching the WHERE clause, sorts them by timestamp_column, and deletes the first (oldest) one:

DELETE FROM somelog WHERE user = 'jcole'
ORDER BY timestamp_column LIMIT 1;

ORDER BY may also be useful in some cases to delete rows in an order required to avoid referential integrity violations.

If you are deleting many rows from a large table, you may exceed the lock table size for an InnoDB table. To avoid this problem, or simply to minimize the time that the table remains locked, the following strategy (which does not use DELETE at all) might be helpful:

  1. Select the rows not to be deleted into an empty table that has the same structure as the original table:

    INSERT INTO t_copy SELECT * FROM t WHERE ... ;
  2. Use RENAME TABLE to atomically move the original table out of the way and rename the copy to the original name:

    RENAME TABLE t TO t_old, t_copy TO t;
  3. Drop the original table:

    DROP TABLE t_old;

No other sessions can access the tables involved while RENAME TABLE executes, so the rename operation is not subject to concurrency problems. See Section 12.1.26, “RENAME TABLE Syntax”.

You can specify multiple tables in a DELETE statement to delete rows from one or more tables depending on the particular condition in the WHERE clause. However, you cannot use ORDER BY or LIMIT in a multiple-table DELETE. The table_references clause lists the tables involved in the join. Its syntax is described in Section, “JOIN Syntax”.

For the first multiple-table syntax, only matching rows from the tables listed before the FROM clause are deleted. For the second multiple-table syntax, only matching rows from the tables listed in the FROM clause (before the USING clause) are deleted. The effect is that you can delete rows from many tables at the same time and have additional tables that are used only for searching:

WHERE t1.id=t2.id AND t2.id=t3.id;


WHERE t1.id=t2.id AND t2.id=t3.id;

These statements use all three tables when searching for rows to delete, but delete matching rows only from tables t1 and t2.

The preceding examples use INNER JOIN, but multiple-table DELETE statements can use other types of join permitted in SELECT statements, such as LEFT JOIN. For example, to delete rows that exist in t1 that have no match in t2, use a LEFT JOIN:

DELETE t1 FROM t1 LEFT JOIN t2 ON t1.id=t2.id WHERE t2.id IS NULL;

The syntax permits .* after each tbl_name for compatibility with Access.

If you use a multiple-table DELETE statement involving InnoDB tables for which there are foreign key constraints, the MySQL optimizer might process tables in an order that differs from that of their parent/child relationship. In this case, the statement fails and rolls back. Instead, you should delete from a single table and rely on the ON DELETE capabilities that InnoDB provides to cause the other tables to be modified accordingly.


If you declare an alias for a table, you must use the alias when referring to the table:

DELETE t1 FROM test AS t1, test2 WHERE ...

Table aliases in a multiple-table DELETE should be declared only in the table_references part of the statement.


DELETE a1, a2 FROM t1 AS a1 INNER JOIN t2 AS a2
WHERE a1.id=a2.id;

WHERE a1.id=a2.id;


DELETE t1 AS a1, t2 AS a2 FROM t1 INNER JOIN t2
WHERE a1.id=a2.id;

WHERE a1.id=a2.id;

Declaration of aliases other than in the table_references part of the statement should be avoided because that can lead to ambiguous statements that have unexpected results such as deleting rows from the wrong table. This is such a statement:

DELETE t1 AS a2 FROM t1 AS a1 INNER JOIN t2 AS a2;

Before MySQL 5.5.3, alias declarations outside the table_references part of the statement are disallowed for the USING variant of multiple-table DELETE syntax. As of MySQL 5.5.3, alias declarations outside table_references are disallowed for all multiple-table DELETE statements.

Before MySQL 5.5.3, for alias references in the list of tables from which to delete rows in a multiple-table delete, the default database is used unless one is specified explicitly. For example, if the default database is db1, the following statement does not work because the unqualified alias reference a2 is interpreted as having a database of db1:

DELETE a1, a2 FROM db1.t1 AS a1 INNER JOIN db2.t2 AS a2
WHERE a1.id=a2.id;

To correctly match an alias that refers to a table outside the default database, you must explicitly qualify the reference with the name of the proper database:

DELETE a1, db2.a2 FROM db1.t1 AS a1 INNER JOIN db2.t2 AS a2
WHERE a1.id=a2.id;

As of MySQL 5.5.3, alias resolution does not require qualification and alias references should not be qualified with the database name. Qualified names are interpreted as referring to tables, not aliases.

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