Mapping Table Columns — SQLAlchemy 2.0.0b1 documentation

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Sqlalchemy/docs/latest/orm/mapping columns

Mapping Table Columns

The default behavior of _orm.mapper() is to assemble all the columns in the mapped _schema.Table into mapped object attributes, each of which are named according to the name of the column itself (specifically, the key attribute of _schema.Column). This behavior can be modified in several ways.

Naming Columns Distinctly from Attribute Names

A mapping by default shares the same name for a _schema.Column as that of the mapped attribute - specifically it matches the _schema.Column.key attribute on _schema.Column, which by default is the same as the

The name assigned to the Python attribute which maps to _schema.Column can be different from either or _schema.Column.key just by assigning it that way, as we illustrate here in a Declarative mapping:

class User(Base):
    __tablename__ = 'user'
    id = Column('user_id', Integer, primary_key=True)
    name = Column('user_name', String(50))

Where above resolves to a column named user_id and resolves to a column named user_name.

When mapping to an existing table, the _schema.Column object can be referenced directly:

class User(Base):
    __table__ = user_table
    id = user_table.c.user_id
    name = user_table.c.user_name

The corresponding technique for an imperative mapping is to place the desired key in the :paramref:`` dictionary with the desired key:

mapper_registry.map_imperatively(User, user_table, properties={
   'id': user_table.c.user_id,
   'name': user_table.c.user_name,

In the next section we’ll examine the usage of .key more closely.

Automating Column Naming Schemes from Reflected Tables

In the previous section Naming Columns Distinctly from Attribute Names, we showed how a _schema.Column explicitly mapped to a class can have a different attribute name than the column. But what if we aren’t listing out _schema.Column objects explicitly, and instead are automating the production of _schema.Table objects using reflection (e.g. as described in Reflecting Database Objects)? In this case we can make use of the _events.DDLEvents.column_reflect() event to intercept the production of _schema.Column objects and provide them with the _schema.Column.key of our choice. The event is most easily associated with the _schema.MetaData object that’s in use, such as below we use the one linked to the _orm.declarative_base instance:

@event.listens_for(Base.metadata, "column_reflect")
def column_reflect(inspector, table, column_info):
    # set column.key = "attr_<lower_case_name>"
    column_info['key'] = "attr_%s" % column_info['name'].lower()

With the above event, the reflection of _schema.Column objects will be intercepted with our event that adds a new “.key” element, such as in a mapping as below:

class MyClass(Base):
    __table__ = Table("some_table", Base.metadata,

The approach also works with the Automap extension. See the section automap_intercepting_columns for background.

See also


automap_intercepting_columns - in the Automap documentation

Naming All Columns with a Prefix

A quick approach to prefix column names, typically when mapping to an existing _schema.Table object, is to use column_prefix:

class User(Base):
    __table__ = user_table
    __mapper_args__ = {'column_prefix':'_'}

The above will place attribute names such as _user_id, _user_name, _password etc. on the mapped User class.

This approach is uncommon in modern usage. For dealing with reflected tables, a more flexible approach is to use that described in Automating Column Naming Schemes from Reflected Tables.

Using column_property for column level options

Options can be specified when mapping a _schema.Column using the column_property() function. This function explicitly creates the ColumnProperty used by the mapper() to keep track of the _schema.Column; normally, the mapper() creates this automatically. Using column_property(), we can pass additional arguments about how we’d like the _schema.Column to be mapped. Below, we pass an option active_history, which specifies that a change to this column’s value should result in the former value being loaded first:

from sqlalchemy.orm import column_property

class User(Base):
    __tablename__ = 'user'

    id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
    name = column_property(Column(String(50)), active_history=True)

column_property() is also used to map a single attribute to multiple columns. This use case arises when mapping to a _expression.join() which has attributes which are equated to each other:

class User(Base):
    __table__ = user.join(address)

    # assign "", "address.user_id" to the
    # "id" attribute
    id = column_property(, address_table.c.user_id)

For more examples featuring this usage, see Mapping a Class against Multiple Tables.

Another place where column_property() is needed is to specify SQL expressions as mapped attributes, such as below where we create an attribute fullname that is the string concatenation of the firstname and lastname columns:

class User(Base):
    __tablename__ = 'user'
    id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
    firstname = Column(String(50))
    lastname = Column(String(50))
    fullname = column_property(firstname + " " + lastname)

See examples of this usage at SQL Expressions as Mapped Attributes.

Mapping a Subset of Table Columns

Sometimes, a _schema.Table object was made available using the reflection process described at Reflecting Database Objects to load the table’s structure from the database. For such a table that has lots of columns that don’t need to be referenced in the application, the include_properties or exclude_properties arguments can specify that only a subset of columns should be mapped. For example:

class User(Base):
    __table__ = user_table
    __mapper_args__ = {
        'include_properties' :['user_id', 'user_name']

…will map the User class to the user_table table, only including the user_id and user_name columns - the rest are not referenced. Similarly:

class Address(Base):
    __table__ = address_table
    __mapper_args__ = {
        'exclude_properties' : ['street', 'city', 'state', 'zip']

…will map the Address class to the address_table table, including all columns present except street, city, state, and zip.

When this mapping is used, the columns that are not included will not be referenced in any SELECT statements emitted by _query.Query, nor will there be any mapped attribute on the mapped class which represents the column; assigning an attribute of that name will have no effect beyond that of a normal Python attribute assignment.

In some cases, multiple columns may have the same name, such as when mapping to a join of two or more tables that share some column name. include_properties and exclude_properties can also accommodate _schema.Column objects to more accurately describe which columns should be included or excluded:

class UserAddress(Base):
    __table__ = user_table.join(addresses_table)
    __mapper_args__ = {
        'exclude_properties' :[],
        'primary_key' : []


insert and update defaults configured on individual _schema.Column objects, i.e. those described at Column INSERT/UPDATE Defaults including those configured by the :paramref:`_schema.Column.default`, :paramref:`_schema.Column.onupdate`, :paramref:`_schema.Column.server_default` and :paramref:`_schema.Column.server_onupdate` parameters, will continue to function normally even if those _schema.Column objects are not mapped. This is because in the case of :paramref:`_schema.Column.default` and :paramref:`_schema.Column.onupdate`, the _schema.Column object is still present on the underlying _schema.Table, thus allowing the default functions to take place when the ORM emits an INSERT or UPDATE, and in the case of :paramref:`_schema.Column.server_default` and :paramref:`_schema.Column.server_onupdate`, the relational database itself emits these defaults as a server side behavior.