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SQL ‘ambiguous column name’ error – SOLVED

SQL, a powerful language for managing relational databases, sometimes throws a puzzling error known as the “Ambiguous Name Column” error. Understanding and resolving this error is crucial for database developers and administrators. Let’s delve into the intricacies of this issue and explore effective solutions.

At times you may want to join two tables in SQL and there are in the tables, columns with the same name.

In this case, if you join the two tables and run the query without differentiating the names of the columns that are the same, the error “Ambiguous name column” will come at you.

Ambiguous column name” means that you are referencing an attribute or attributes that belong to more than one of the tables you are using in the query and have not qualified the attribute reference. The SQL engine doesn’t know which one you want.

Suppose you have the following query:

Select employee_name, department_id, department_name
from employee, department
where employee.department_id = department.department_id;

In this example, the “WHERE” clause correctly qualifies ownership of the department_id attributes, but the “SELECT” does not. From which table is that column coming from? The SQL engine can’t tell.

In this example, the values would be the same, but the SQL engine still needs to be told where it is coming from. It is ambiguous.

A more obvious case would be if there was a “name” field in both tables, and you didn’t qualify it. In that case, “” is different from “department. name”. But the values don’t need to be different. The SQL statement declares what you are trying to select, and that means you have to qualify the statement if it is ambiguous.

How do you solve this?

Understanding the Error

The “Ambiguous Name Column” error occurs when a query references a column name that exists in multiple tables without specifying from which table to fetch the data. This confusion can arise in various situations, leading to unexpected results and challenges in query execution.

When this error surfaces, SQL queries become prone to misinterpretation, making it challenging to identify the source of the data. This can result in inaccurate reports, failed transactions, and overall inefficiency in database operations.

How to Solve the “Ambiguous Name Column” Error in SQL

Method 1

Qualifying Column Names

To tackle this issue, developers can explicitly specify the table name along with the column name in the query. This helps SQL identify the exact source of the data and resolves ambiguity.

Certainly! Qualifying column names involves explicitly stating the table name or alias before the column name to avoid ambiguity. Let’s consider an example with two tables, “employees” and “departments,” both having a column named “name”:

SELECT AS employee_name, AS department_name
FROM employees
JOIN departments ON employees.department_id = departments.department_id;

In this example:

  • “” specifies the “name” column from the “employees” table.
  • “” specifies the “name” column from the “departments” table.

By qualifying the column names with their respective table names or aliases, you eliminate any confusion regarding which “name” column you are referring to. This approach ensures clarity in your SQL query and helps prevent the “Ambiguous Name Column” error.

Method 2:

Using Table Aliases

Assigning aliases to tables provides a shorthand notation in queries, reducing the likelihood of ambiguous column references. It enhances code readability and simplifies troubleshooting.

Consider two tables, “employees” and “departments,” both containing a column named “id.” If you want to retrieve the IDs from both tables, you can use table aliases to differentiate them:

SELECT AS employee_id, AS department_id
FROM employees e
JOIN departments d ON e.department_id =;

In this example, “e” and “d” are table aliases for the “employees” and “departments” tables, respectively. By using aliases, you can distinguish between the “id” columns of the two tables, eliminating the ambiguity and resolving the “Ambiguous Name Column” error.

Method 3:

Employing Joins Carefully

Carefully structuring JOIN operations can minimize the risk of ambiguous column errors. Developers should choose appropriate JOIN types and ensure that column references are unambiguous across tables.

Certainly! Let’s say you have two tables, “employees” and “departments,” both containing a column named “name.” If you want to retrieve the names of employees along with their corresponding department names in a single query, you can use table aliases and employ joins carefully. Here’s an example:

SELECT e.employee_id, AS employee_name, AS department_name
FROM employees e
JOIN departments d ON e.department_id = d.department_id;

In this example:

  • “e” is a table alias for the “employees” table.
  • “d” is a table alias for the “departments” table.

By carefully specifying the join condition (ON e.department_id = d.department_id), you ensure that you’re linking the correct columns from each table. The aliases help in differentiating between the “name” columns of the “employees” and “departments” tables. This approach prevents any ambiguity and ensures that you retrieve the employee names along with their corresponding department names without encountering the “Ambiguous Name Column” error.

Best Practices to Avoid the Error

To prevent the “Ambiguous Name Column” error, developers should adhere to best practices such as using unique and descriptive column names, utilizing table aliases consistently, and employing explicit JOIN conditions. For developers grappling with SQL errors, several tools and resources can aid in debugging and resolving issues. From query analyzers to online forums, a wealth of support is available.


Effectively resolving the “Ambiguous Name Column” error requires a combination of understanding the issue, applying best practices, and leveraging practical solutions. By following the methods outlined in this article, developers can ensure cleaner, more efficient SQL queries.


  1. Q: Can I use aliases for all tables in my SQL queries?
    • A: While it’s possible, it’s recommended to use aliases selectively for improved readability.
  2. Q: What other SQL errors are commonly encountered by developers?
    • A: Common errors include syntax errors, NULL-related issues, and constraint violations.
  3. Q: Is it necessary to use explicit JOIN conditions in every query?
    • A: It depends on the complexity of the query. For simpler queries, implicit JOINs may suffice.
  4. Q: How can I check for SQL errors in my queries?
    • A: Utilize SQL query analyzers and examine error messages for effective debugging.
  5. Q: Where can I find more resources on SQL query optimization?
    • A: Explore online forums, tutorials, and documentation for comprehensive resources.

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