Difference between SQL and MySQL

Published on August 30, 2015

SQL and MySQL are two terminologies that people usually confuse. Most people believe them to be the same type of technology, but they are completely different as shown in this article.


SQL command structure

SQL is an acronym for Structured Query Language. It is a special purpose standard programming language. SQL is used to issue instructions relating to the addition, retrieval, removal and access of data within a relational database management system. Simply put, it’s a language you can use to access data that’s stored within a database.

MySQL user interface
Image showing MySQL user interface

MySQL is an open source relational database management system (RDBMS). It is software that’s used to store and manipulate data. Open source means “it is free to use and undergoes frequent changes to enhance security and user friendliness.” MySQL is an RDBS that is popularly used on the web as opposed to offline data management.

Comparison chart

Is a programming language used to issue instructions to a relational database management systemIs an open source relational database management system
Used to issue instructions about how data is to be inserted, manipulated, removed or accessed within the RDBMSUsed to store data for manipulation and retrieval in the future
You need to learn the language to use itReadily available through download and installation
Is fixed and not updatableRegularly updated


What’s the difference between SQL and MySQL? These are two distinct technologies which are used together to ensure the easy storage, manipulation and access of data. The main differences lie in the type of technology, usage, availability and updatability.

  • SQL is a standard programming language. This means that it’s fixed in nature and doesn’t undergo any changes. For example, the SQL command ‘INSERT’ means something specific and it can never be replaced by a different command like ‘ENTER’. MySQL on the other hand is software. It is built using several programming languages including C. MySQL is designed to understand SQL commands, interpret them and perform the desired action.
  • SQL is used to issue instructions to the relational database management system. Without these instructions, the user is unable to access data stored in the RDBMS. SQL can be used on different RDBMS software including Microsoft Excel and Oracle. MySQL is used to store data for manipulation and use in the future.
  • Both technologies are readily available. To be able to use SQL, you’ll need to learn the language. To use MySQL, you’ll need to understand how databases work. You don’t necessarily need to learn SQL to use MySQL although it’s recommended. All you need is to download MySQL and install it onto the server. The RDBMS can be accessed using other programming languages such as PHP.
  • SQL doesn’t undergo any updates. The language is fixed and commands remain the same. MySQL on the other hand undergoes regular updates. The updates involve tweaking the internal code to make the RDBMS more secure and user friendly. Since it is open source software, updates involve coding input from several programmers working together.