Definition of Database

Definition Last Updated 17-Dec-2015 12:51

A database is a set of structures or patterns according to which multiple instances of defined types of information (including database rules) are or may be organised (i.e. physically arranged in accordance with a specification) in such a way that subsets of data satisfying particular criteria (which may themselves be stored within the database or supplied dynamically) may be retrieved and re-organised for further processing.

A database application is part of a system for manipulating (creating, reading, updating, deleting, etc.) databases.


Database is a defined term of Enterprise Architecture. Database is a defined term of Business Analysis. Database is a defined term of Information Technology.


Article Last Updated 17-Dec-2015 12:51

Within the scope of the definition, a database comprises

  • The rules that determine the organisation of data (i.e. determine the structure or pattern)
  • The structure arising from the application of the rules, and
  • The set of data (which may be empty) whose components are placed within the structure
  • Which data may include other rules for database operations

A database system comprises a database and one or more associated applications, and sub-systems together realising input, output and processing capabilities other than the four basic functions of persistent storage1CRUD – Create, Read, Update, Delete. and low-level referencing, integrity, optimisation and other functions2Such as indexing, record locking, replication, deduplication, compression, etc. which are the responsibility of the database itself.

Philosophical Side Note

The problem with data is that it simply does not exist without a physical substrate; data can only be a pattern of something that someone or something can then interact with and interpret. If data were purely an abstract ideal, the whole question of how the physical and non-physical interact would have to be addressed, and after more than 2,000 years of mostly fruitless (and probably pointless) debate it is probably best to declare as axiomatic the idea that only the physical can interact with the physical and that therefore, data processing i.e. the application of a physical processor to data, implies the physicality of the data.

Databases are just well constrained patterns of patterns, i.e. patterns (data interpreted as rules) that specify how other data is to be arranged.

Notes   [ + ]

1.CRUD – Create, Read, Update, Delete.
2.Such as indexing, record locking, replication, deduplication, compression, etc.

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