Understanding the Key Differences Between SQL vs. MySQL

Updated June 22, 2023

Databases store vast quantities of information in a format that is easy to access, manipulate, and build upon. SQL is a programming language for querying databases, while MySQL is database management software. Learning about the differences between SQL and MySQL can help you understand more about database management and determine useful ways to organize your information. In this article, we discuss the fundamentals of SQL vs. MySQL, describe important terms for understanding databases, define SQL and share its importance, explain what MySQL is, and consider the key differences between SQL and MySQL.


To understand the differences between SQL vs. MySQL, first know that both terms relate to computerized databases. A database is an organized collection of information. Computers allow for the storage of vast amounts of information in databases that are easy to access, update, and change. You can think of a database as a kind of digital library that accurately records the location of each book and allows you to find information quickly. SQL is a programming language used for operating and querying databases. MySQL is software that uses SQL to help users create, manage, and access their own databases.

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Understanding databases

It can be useful to learn more about some key terms concerning databases to understand the differences between SQL and MySQL. Here are some important concepts to consider:

Relational database

A relational database is a way to store data logically that allows for easy recall and access. A relational database in its simplest form can be a table with rows and columns. Each data point attains a specific place within the rows and columns in relation to all the other data points. There are rules for accessing and manipulating the data to maintain integrity.

Database management system (DBMS)

A DBMS is software that allows users to create and access databases. A DBMS provides interfaces to display databases and helps users leverage the data contained in them. These programs often contain powerful tools for manipulating the data in specialized ways according to unique user requirements.

Query language

A query language is a specially adapted programming language for databases. Query refers to a request to access the information in a database. A query language allows programmers to communicate with a database and request information or make changes.

What is SQL?

Structured Query Language (SQL) is a programming language for interacting with relational databases. This programming language allows users to access many records within a database by using a single command. It is a standardized language that applies to nearly all digital databases. SQL commands let users access, update, and change data within a relational database. Using the SQL language, users can query the database for information, use expressions to produce tables of data, or use predicates to specify conditions.

SQL statements allow users to make changes to a database. You can use the SELECT statement to extract a particular piece of data or view the data you are searching for. The UPDATE statement allows a user to make changes to the existing data. You can add information to a database by using the INSERT statement. The DELETE statement can remove data from the database, while the ORDER BY statement can help sort data into a particular order.

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The importance of SQL

SQL provides a standardized system for querying relational databases. The internal logic of SQL makes it a powerful and adaptable tool for accessing and manipulating large datasets. SQL allows users to build different databases and make updates. It is a standardized language, applying to all databases, allowing for easy interoperability. Once a user acquires knowledge of SQL, they can work comfortably with nearly any dataset. SQL is the foundation for building an effective DBMS.

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What is MySQL?

MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS) software for storing information in a database. It is an open-source program, meaning anyone can access it for free. You can use MySQL in combination with other programs to incorporate databases into other applications. It can also integrate with graphical user interfaces to make it easier for inexperienced users to work with databases. MySQL uses the SQL language to interact with databases, and it provides users with additional functions and interoperable capabilities. MySQL is a software program that helps users interact with databases and efficiently organize their data.

MySQL Workbench is a tool that combines the functions of the SQL language with the database management abilities of MySQL. It has a user-friendly graphical interface that displays information in a way that new users can understand. MySQL Workbench also lets users design data models, adjust databases, and reverse engineer databases to return to previous states. It provides additional tools to users to allow them to work with collections of data and display information in new forms.

The importance of MySQL

MySQL is the most popular RDBMS, and it is the inspiration for several similar programs. It makes SQL more accessible to the average user and provides additional tools for organizing data. MySQL effectively integrates with other applications, allowing users to combine databases with other software to do calculations or modelling. It is a foundational application across the computer science and data management fields and helps companies in many industries manage their data.

Learning MySQL can help you manage large datasets and integrate data into web applications. MySQL developers can find work in various industries, including web development and data management. By learning MySQL, you can acquire a broad skill set that you can adapt to solve different problems. You can use MySQL to make a business more efficient by organizing data effectively and allowing easy access.

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Key differences between SQL and MySQL

There are several key differences between SQL and MySQL. Here are some of the most important differences:


SQL is a programming language, while MySQL is software. The SQL language is foundational for communicating with digital databases. It provides the system and structure that allows other programs to build more effective interfaces for interacting with databases. MySQL is a RDBMS that allows users to create databases and interact with them efficiently. It often works in combination with other web development software to deploy databases on webpages. MySQL uses the SQL language to send requests for information or make changes to databases.


The purpose of SQL is to provide a logical framework for communication between a user and information organized in a relational database. It is internally consistent and can adapt to many purposes. MySQL is a DBMS that can host any form of user data and allow integration with other applications. MySQL uses SQL to structure user requests for information. You can use MySQL to do any kind of database work, from creating your own collection of customer data to organizing that data into new forms.


MySQL is open-source software, so it receives frequent updates. Users can submit their own updates or adapt the code to their own purposes. The software is constantly evolving to integrate with new applications and build databases for different industries. SQL is a standardized programming language, so it does not receive updates. The SQL language remains the same, so you can always use the same commands to query a database. The immutable nature of SQL makes it a reliable way to interact with databases.


SQL is a complex programming language involving multiple commands, expressions, and statements. Users might spend a significant amount of time learning SQL commands and determining how to use them to query a database. Once you master SQL, you can work with different databases because the language doesn't change. MySQL is powerful software for creating databases and organizing information. It can be challenging to learn, but there are many tools to help make it more user-friendly and adapt it to specific purposes. Graphical interfaces can make MySQL easier to manage for beginners.


SQL is a programming language that is specifically for accessing databases. It has a broad range of applications, but it fulfills a specific purpose. Applications can use SQL to interact with databases and build other systems alongside it. MySQL is open-source database management software, so its code can integrate with other applications and languages. Web developers often use MySQL to manage databases within other applications. MySQL works alongside web servers and other applications, and the open-source nature of its code ensures that it can serve new purposes as necessary.


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