Collation and Unicode support

Applies to: SQL Server Azure SQL Database Azure SQL Managed Instance Azure Synapse Analytics Analytics Platform System (PDW) SQL analytics endpoint in Microsoft Fabric Warehouse in Microsoft Fabric

Collations in SQL Server provide sorting rules, case, and accent sensitivity properties for your data. Collations that are used with character data types, such as char and varchar, dictate the code page and corresponding characters that can be represented for that data type.

Whether you're installing a new instance of SQL Server, restoring a database backup, or connecting server to client databases, it's important to understand the locale requirements, sorting order, and case and accent sensitivity of the data that you're working with. To list the collations that are available on your instance of SQL Server, see sys.fn_helpcollations (Transact-SQL).

When you select a collation for your server, database, column, or expression, you're assigning certain characteristics to your data. These characteristics affect the results of many operations in the database. For example, when you construct a query by using ORDER BY, the sort order of your result set might depend on the collation that's applied to the database or dictated in a COLLATE clause at the expression level of the query.

To best use collation support in SQL Server, you should understand the terms that are defined in this article and how they relate to the characteristics of your data.

Collation terms


A collation specifies the bit patterns that represent each character in a dataset. Collations also determine the rules that sort and compare data. SQL Server supports storing objects that have different collations in a single database. For non-Unicode columns, the collation setting specifies the code page for the data and which characters can be represented. The data that you move between non-Unicode columns must be converted from the source code page to the destination code page.

Transact-SQL statement results can vary when the statement is run in the context of different databases that have different collation settings. If possible, use a standardized collation for your organization. This way, you don't have to specify the collation in every character or Unicode expression. If you must work with objects that have different collation and code page settings, code your queries to consider the rules of collation precedence. For more information, see Collation Precedence (Transact-SQL).

The options associated with a collation are case sensitivity, accent sensitivity, kana sensitivity, width sensitivity, and variation-selector sensitivity. SQL Server 2019 (15.x) introduces an additional option for UTF-8 encoding.

You can specify these options by appending them to the collation name. For example, the collation Japanese_Bushu_Kakusu_100_CS_AS_KS_WS_UTF8 is case-sensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-sensitive, width-sensitive, and UTF-8 encoded. As another example, the collation Japanese_Bushu_Kakusu_140_CI_AI_KS_WS_VSS is case-insensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-sensitive, width-sensitive, variation-selector-sensitive, and it uses non-Unicode encoding.

The behavior associated with these various options is described in the following table:

Option Description
Case-sensitive (_CS) Distinguishes between uppercase and lowercase letters. If this option is selected, lowercase letters sort ahead of their uppercase versions. If this option isn't selected, the collation is case-insensitive. That is, SQL Server considers the uppercase and lowercase versions of letters to be identical for sorting purposes. You can explicitly select case insensitivity by specifying _CI.
Accent-sensitive (_AS) Distinguishes between accented and unaccented characters. For example, "a" isn't equal to "ấ". If this option isn't selected, the collation is accent-insensitive. That is, SQL Server considers the accented and unaccented versions of letters to be identical for sorting purposes. You can explicitly select accent insensitivity by specifying _AI.
Kana-sensitive (_KS) Distinguishes between the two types of Japanese kana characters: Hiragana and Katakana. If this option isn't selected, the collation is kana-insensitive. That is, SQL Server considers Hiragana and Katakana characters to be equal for sorting purposes. Omitting this option is the only method of specifying kana-insensitivity.
Width-sensitive (_WS) Distinguishes between full-width and half-width characters. If this option isn't selected, SQL Server considers the full-width and half-width representation of the same character to be identical for sorting purposes. Omitting this option is the only method of specifying width-insensitivity.
Variation-selector-sensitive (_VSS) Distinguishes between various ideographic variation selectors in the Japanese collations Japanese_Bushu_Kakusu_140 and Japanese_XJIS_140, which are introduced in SQL Server 2017 (14.x). A variation sequence consists of a base character plus a variation selector. If this _VSS option isn't selected, the collation is variation-selector-insensitive, and the variation selector isn't considered in the comparison. That is, SQL Server considers characters built upon the same base character with differing variation selectors to be identical for sorting purposes. For more information, see Unicode Ideographic Variation Database.

Variation-selector-sensitive (_VSS) collations aren't supported in full-text search indexes. Full-text search indexes support only Accent-Sensitive (_AS), Kana-sensitive (_KS), and Width-sensitive (_WS) options. SQL Server XML and Common Language Runtime (CLR) engines don't support (_VSS) Variation selectors.
Binary (_BIN)1 Sorts and compares data in SQL Server tables based on the bit patterns defined for each character. Binary sort order is case-sensitive and accent-sensitive. Binary is also the fastest sorting order. For more information, see the Binary collations section in this article.
Binary-code point (_BIN2)1 Sorts and compares data in SQL Server tables based on Unicode code points for Unicode data. For non-Unicode data, Binary-code point uses comparisons that are identical to those for binary sorts.

The advantage of using a Binary-code point sort order is that no data resorting is required in applications that compare sorted SQL Server data. As a result, a Binary-code point sort order provides simpler application development and possible performance increases. For more information, see the Binary collations section in this article.
UTF-8 (_UTF8) Enables UTF-8 encoded data to be stored in SQL Server. If this option isn't selected, SQL Server uses the default non-Unicode encoding format for the applicable data types. For more information, see the UTF-8 Support section in this article.

1 If Binary or Binary-code point is selected, the Case-sensitive (_CS), Accent-sensitive (_AS), Kana-sensitive (_KS), and Width-sensitive (_WS) options aren't available.

Examples of collation options

Each collation is combined as a series of suffixes to define case-, accent-, width-, or kana-sensitivity. The following examples describe sort order behavior for various combinations of suffixes.

Windows collation suffix Sort order description
_BIN1 Binary sort
_BIN21, 2 Binary-code point sort order
_CI_AI2 Case-insensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-insensitive, width-insensitive
_CI_AI_KS2 Case-insensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-sensitive, width-insensitive
_CI_AI_KS_WS2 Case-insensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-sensitive, width-sensitive
_CI_AI_WS2 Case-insensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-insensitive, width-sensitive
_CI_AS2 Case-insensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-insensitive, width-insensitive
_CI_AS_KS2 Case-insensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-sensitive, width-insensitive
_CI_AS_KS_WS2 Case-insensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-sensitive, width-sensitive
_CI_AS_WS2 Case-insensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-insensitive, width-sensitive
_CS_AI2 Case-sensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-insensitive, width-insensitive
_CS_AI_KS2 Case-sensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-sensitive, width-insensitive
_CS_AI_KS_WS2 Case-sensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-sensitive, width-sensitive
_CS_AI_WS2 Case-sensitive, accent-insensitive, kana-insensitive, width-sensitive
_CS_AS2 Case-sensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-insensitive, width-insensitive
_CS_AS_KS2 Case-sensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-sensitive, width-insensitive
_CS_AS_KS_WS2 Case-sensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-sensitive, width-sensitive
_CS_AS_WS2 Case-sensitive, accent-sensitive, kana-insensitive, width-sensitive

1 If Binary or Binary-code point is selected, the Case-sensitive (_CS), Accent-sensitive (_AS), Kana-sensitive (_KS), and Width-sensitive (_WS) options aren't available.

2 Adding the UTF-8 option (_UTF8) enables you to encode Unicode data by using UTF-8. For more information, see the UTF-8 Support section in this article.

Collation sets

SQL Server supports the following collation sets:

Windows collations

Windows collations define rules for storing character data that's based on an associated Windows system locale. For a Windows collation, you can implement a comparison of non-Unicode data by using the same algorithm as that for Unicode data. The base Windows collation rules specify which alphabet or language is used when dictionary sorting is applied. The rules also specify the code page that's used to store non-Unicode character data. Both Unicode and non-Unicode sorting are compatible with string comparisons in a particular version of Windows. This provides consistency across data types within SQL Server, and it lets developers sort strings in their applications by using the same rules that are used by SQL Server. For more information, see Windows Collation Name (Transact-SQL).

Binary collations

Binary collations sort data based on the sequence of coded values that are defined by the locale and data type. They're case-sensitive. A binary collation in SQL Server defines the locale and the ANSI code page that's used. This enforces a binary sort order. Because they're relatively simple, binary collations help improve application performance. For non-Unicode data types, data comparisons are based on the code points that are defined on the ANSI code page. For Unicode data types, data comparisons are based on the Unicode code points. For binary collations on Unicode data types, the locale isn't considered in data sorts. For example, Latin1_General_BIN and Japanese_BIN yield identical sorting results when they're used on Unicode data. For more information, see Windows Collation Name (Transact-SQL).

There are two types of binary collations in SQL Server:

  • The legacy BIN collations, which performed an incomplete code-point-to-code-point comparison for Unicode data. Legacy binary collations compared the first character as WCHAR, followed by a byte-by-byte comparison. In a BIN collation, only the first character is sorted according to the code point, and remaining characters are sorted according to their byte values.

  • The newer BIN2 collations, which implement a pure code-point comparison. In a BIN2 collation, all characters are sorted according to their code points. Because the Intel platform is a little endian architecture, Unicode code characters are always stored byte-swapped.

SQL Server collations

SQL Server collations (SQL_*) provide sort order compatibility with earlier versions of SQL Server. The dictionary sorting rules for non-Unicode data are incompatible with any sorting routine that's provided by Windows operating systems. However, sorting Unicode data is compatible with a particular version of Windows sorting rules. Because SQL Server collations use different comparison rules for non-Unicode and Unicode data, you see different results for comparisons of the same data, depending on the underlying data type.

For example, if you are using the SQL collation SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS, the non-Unicode string 'a-c' is less than the string 'ab' because the hyphen (-) is sorted as a separate character that comes before b. However, if you convert these strings to Unicode and you perform the same comparison, the Unicode string N'a-c' is considered to be greater than N'ab', because the Unicode sorting rules use a word sort that ignores the hyphen.

For more information, see SQL Server Collation Name (Transact-SQL).

During SQL Server setup, the default installation collation setting is determined by the operating system (OS) locale. You can change the server-level collation either during setup or by changing the OS locale before installation. For backward compatibility reasons, the default collation is set to the oldest available version that's associated with each specific locale. Therefore, this isn't always the recommended collation. To take full advantage of SQL Server features, change the default installation settings to use Windows collations. For example, for the OS locale "English (United States)" (code page 1252), the default collation during setup is SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS, and it can be changed to its closest Windows collation counterpart, Latin1_General_100_CI_AS_SC.


When you upgrade an English-language instance of SQL Server, you can specify SQL Server collations (SQL_*) for compatibility with existing instances of SQL Server. Because the default collation for an instance of SQL Server is defined during setup, make sure that you specify the collation settings carefully when the following conditions are true:

  • Your application code depends on the behavior of previous SQL Server collations.
  • You must store character data that reflects multiple languages.

Collation levels

Setting collations are supported at the following levels of an instance of SQL Server:

Server-level collations

The default server collation is determined during SQL Server setup, and it becomes the default collation of the system databases and all user databases.

The following table shows the default collation designations, as determined by the operating system (OS) locale, including their Windows and SQL Language Code Identifiers (LCID):

Windows locale Windows LCID SQL LCID Default collation
Afrikaans (South Africa) 0x0436 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Albanian (Albania) 0x041c 0x041c Albanian_CI_AS
Alsatian (France) 0x0484 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Amharic (Ethiopia) 0x045e 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Arabic (Algeria) 0x1401 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Bahrain) 0x3c01 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Egypt) 0x0c01 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Iraq) 0x0801 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Jordan) 0x2c01 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Kuwait) 0x3401 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Lebanon) 0x3001 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Libya) 0x1001 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Morocco) 0x1801 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Oman) 0x2001 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Qatar) 0x4001 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Saudi Arabia) 0x0401 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Syria) 0x2801 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Tunisia) 0x1c01 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (U.A.E.) 0x3801 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Arabic (Yemen) 0x2401 0x0401 Arabic_CI_AS
Armenian (Armenia) 0x042b 0x0419 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Assamese (India) 0x044d 0x044d Not available at server level
Azerbaijani (Azerbaijan, Cyrillic) 0x082c 0x082c Deprecated, not available at server level
Azerbaijani (Azerbaijan, Latin) 0x042c 0x042c Deprecated, not available at server level
Bashkir (Russia) 0x046d 0x046d Latin1_General_CI_AI
Basque (Basque) 0x042d 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Belarusian (Belarus) 0x0423 0x0419 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Bangla (Bangladesh) 0x0845 0x0445 Not available at server level
Bengali (India) 0x0445 0x0439 Not available at server level
Bosnian (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyrillic) 0x201a 0x201a Latin1_General_CI_AI
Bosnian (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latin) 0x141a 0x141a Latin1_General_CI_AI
Breton (France) 0x047e 0x047e Latin1_General_CI_AI
Bulgarian (Bulgaria) 0x0402 0x0419 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Catalan (Catalan) 0x0403 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Chinese (Hong Kong SAR, PRC) 0x0c04 0x0404 Chinese_Taiwan_Stroke_CI_AS
Chinese (Macao SAR) 0x1404 0x1404 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Chinese (Macao SAR) 0x21404 0x21404 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Chinese (PRC) 0x0804 0x0804 Chinese_PRC_CI_AS
Chinese (PRC) 0x20804 0x20804 Chinese_PRC_Stroke_CI_AS
Chinese (Singapore) 0x1004 0x0804 Chinese_PRC_CI_AS
Chinese (Singapore) 0x21004 0x20804 Chinese_PRC_Stroke_CI_AS
Chinese (Taiwan) 0x30404 0x30404 Chinese_Taiwan_Bopomofo_CI_AS
Chinese (Taiwan) 0x0404 0x0404 Chinese_Taiwan_Stroke_CI_AS
Corsican (France) 0x0483 0x0483 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Croatian (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latin) 0x101a 0x041a Croatian_CI_AS
Croatian (Croatia) 0x041a 0x041a Croatian_CI_AS
Czech (Czech Republic) 0x0405 0x0405 Czech_CI_AS
Danish (Denmark) 0x0406 0x0406 Danish_Norwegian_CI_AS
Dari (Afghanistan) 0x048c 0x048c Latin1_General_CI_AI
Divehi (Maldives) 0x0465 0x0465 Not available at server level
Dutch (Belgium) 0x0813 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Dutch (Netherlands) 0x0413 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Australia) 0x0c09 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Belize) 0x2809 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Canada) 0x1009 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Caribbean) 0x2409 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (India) 0x4009 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Ireland) 0x1809 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Jamaica) 0x2009 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Malaysia) 0x4409 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (New Zealand) 0x1409 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Philippines) 0x3409 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Singapore) 0x4809 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (South Africa) 0x1c09 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (Trinidad and Tobago) 0x2c09 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (United Kingdom) 0x0809 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
English (United States) 0x0409 0x0409 SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS
English (Zimbabwe) 0x3009 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Estonian (Estonia) 0x0425 0x0425 Estonian_CI_AS
Faroese (Faroe Islands) 0x0438 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Filipino (Philippines) 0x0464 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Finnish (Finland) 0x040b 0x040b Finnish_Swedish_CI_AS
French (Belgium) 0x080c 0x040c French_CI_AS
French (Canada) 0x0c0c 0x040c French_CI_AS
French (France) 0x040c 0x040c French_CI_AS
French (Luxembourg) 0x140c 0x040c French_CI_AS
French (Monaco) 0x180c 0x040c French_CI_AS
French (Switzerland) 0x100c 0x040c French_CI_AS
Frisian (Netherlands) 0x0462 0x0462 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Galician 0x0456 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Georgian (Georgia) 0x10437 0x10437 Georgian_Modern_Sort_CI_AS
Georgian (Georgia) 0x0437 0x0419 Latin1_General_CI_AS
German - Phone Book Sort (DIN) 0x10407 0x10407 German_PhoneBook_CI_AS
German (Austria) 0x0c07 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
German (Germany) 0x0407 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
German (Liechtenstein) 0x1407 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
German (Luxembourg) 0x1007 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
German (Switzerland) 0x0807 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Greek (Greece) 0x0408 0x0408 Greek_CI_AS
Greenlandic (Greenland) 0x046f 0x0406 Danish_Norwegian_CI_AS
Gujarati (India) 0x0447 0x0439 Not available at server level
Hausa (Nigeria, Latin) 0x0468 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Hebrew (Israel) 0x040d 0x040d Hebrew_CI_AS
Hindi (India) 0x0439 0x0439 Not available at server level
Hungarian (Hungary) 0x040e 0x040e Hungarian_CI_AS
Hungarian Technical Sort 0x1040e 0x1040e Hungarian_Technical_CI_AS
Icelandic (Iceland) 0x040f 0x040f Icelandic_CI_AS
Igbo (Nigeria) 0x0470 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Indonesian (Indonesia) 0x0421 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Inuktitut (Canada, Latin) 0x085d 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Inuktitut (Syllabics) Canada 0x045d 0x045d Latin1_General_CI_AI
Irish (Ireland) 0x083c 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Italian (Italy) 0x0410 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Italian (Switzerland) 0x0810 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Japanese (Japan XJIS) 0x0411 0x0411 Japanese_CI_AS
Japanese (Japan) 0x040411 0x40411 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Kannada (India) 0x044b 0x0439 Not available at server level
Kazakh (Kazakhstan) 0x043f 0x043f Kazakh_90_CI_AS
Khmer (Cambodia) 0x0453 0x0453 Not available at server level
K'iche (Guatemala) 0x0486 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Kinyarwanda (Rwanda) 0x0487 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Konkani (India) 0x0457 0x0439 Not available at server level
Korean (Korea Dictionary Sort) 0x0412 0x0412 Korean_Wansung_CI_AS
Kyrgyz (Kyrgyzstan) 0x0440 0x0419 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Lao (Lao PDR) 0x0454 0x0454 Not available at server level
Latvian (Latvia) 0x0426 0x0426 Latvian_CI_AS
Lithuanian (Lithuania) 0x0427 0x0427 Lithuanian_CI_AS
Lower Sorbian (Germany) 0x082e 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Luxembourgish (Luxembourg) 0x046e 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Macedonian (North Macedonia) 0x042f 0x042f Macedonian_FYROM_90_CI_AS
Malay (Brunei Darussalam) 0x083e 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Malay (Malaysia) 0x043e 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Malayalam (India) 0x044c 0x0439 Not available at server level
Maltese (Malta) 0x043a 0x043a Latin1_General_CI_AI
Maori (New Zealand) 0x0481 0x0481 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Mapudungun (Chile) 0x047a 0x047a Latin1_General_CI_AI
Marathi (India) 0x044e 0x0439 Not available at server level
Mohawk (Canada) 0x047c 0x047c Latin1_General_CI_AI
Mongolian (Mongolia) 0x0450 0x0419 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Mongolian (PRC) 0x0850 0x0419 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Nepali (Nepal) 0x0461 0x0461 Not available at server level
Norwegian (Bokmål, Norway) 0x0414 0x0414 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Norwegian (Nynorsk, Norway) 0x0814 0x0414 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Occitan (France) 0x0482 0x040c French_CI_AS
Odia (India) 0x0448 0x0439 Not available at server level
Pashto (Afghanistan) 0x0463 0x0463 Not available at server level
Persian (Iran) 0x0429 0x0429 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Polish (Poland) 0x0415 0x0415 Polish_CI_AS
Portuguese (Brazil) 0x0416 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Portuguese (Portugal) 0x0816 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Punjabi (India) 0x0446 0x0439 Not available at server level
Quechua (Bolivia) 0x046b 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Quechua (Ecuador) 0x086b 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Quechua (Peru) 0x0c6b 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Romanian (Romania) 0x0418 0x0418 Romanian_CI_AS
Romansh (Switzerland) 0x0417 0x0417 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Russian (Russia) 0x0419 0x0419 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Sahka (Russia) 0x0485 0x0485 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Inari, Finland) 0x243b 0x083b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Lule, Norway) 0x103b 0x043b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Lule, Sweden) 0x143b 0x083b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Northern, Finland) 0x0c3b 0x083b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Northern, Norway) 0x043b 0x043b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Northern, Sweden) 0x083b 0x083b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Skolt, Finland) 0x203b 0x083b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Southern, Norway) 0x183b 0x043b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sami (Southern, Sweden) 0x1c3b 0x083b Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sanskrit (India) 0x044f 0x0439 Not available at server level
Serbian (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyrillic) 0x1c1a 0x0c1a Latin1_General_CI_AI
Serbian (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latin) 0x181a 0x081a Latin1_General_CI_AI
Serbian (Serbia, Cyrillic) 0x0c1a 0x0c1a Latin1_General_CI_AI
Serbian (Serbia, Latin) 0x081a 0x081a Latin1_General_CI_AI
Sesotho sa Leboa/Northern Sotho (South Africa) 0x046c 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Setswana/Tswana (South Africa) 0x0432 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Sinhala (Sri Lanka) 0x045b 0x0439 Not available at server level
Slovak (Slovakia) 0x041b 0x041b Slovak_CI_AS
Slovenian (Slovenia) 0x0424 0x0424 Slovenian_CI_AS
Spanish (Argentina) 0x2c0a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Bolivia) 0x400a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Chile) 0x340a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Colombia) 0x240a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Costa Rica) 0x140a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Dominican Republic) 0x1c0a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Ecuador) 0x300a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (El Salvador) 0x440a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Guatemala) 0x100a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Honduras) 0x480a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Mexico) 0x080a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Nicaragua) 0x4c0a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Panama) 0x180a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Paraguay) 0x3c0a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Peru) 0x280a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Puerto Rico) 0x500a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Spain) 0x0c0a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Spain, Traditional Sort) 0x040a 0x040a Traditional_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (United States) 0x540a 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Spanish (Uruguay) 0x380a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Spanish (Venezuela) 0x200a 0x0c0a Modern_Spanish_CI_AS
Swahili (Kenya) 0x0441 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Swedish (Finland) 0x081d 0x040b Finnish_Swedish_CI_AS
Swedish (Sweden) 0x041d 0x040b Finnish_Swedish_CI_AS
Syriac (Syria) 0x045a 0x045a Not available at server level
Tajik (Tajikistan) 0x0428 0x0419 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Tamazight (Algeria, Latin) 0x085f 0x085f Latin1_General_CI_AI
Tamil (India) 0x0449 0x0439 Not available at server level
Tatar (Russia) 0x0444 0x0444 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Telugu (India) 0x044a 0x0439 Not available at server level
Thai (Thailand) 0x041e 0x041e Thai_CI_AS
Tibetan (PRC) 0x0451 0x0451 Not available at server level
Turkish (Türkiye) 0x041f 0x041f Turkish_CI_AS
Turkmen (Turkmenistan) 0x0442 0x0442 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Uighur (PRC) 0x0480 0x0480 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Ukrainian (Ukraine) 0x0422 0x0422 Ukrainian_CI_AS
Upper Sorbian (Germany) 0x042e 0x042e Latin1_General_CI_AI
Urdu (Pakistan) 0x0420 0x0420 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Uzbek (Uzbekistan, Cyrillic) 0x0843 0x0419 Cyrillic_General_CI_AS
Uzbek (Uzbekistan, Latin) 0x0443 0x0443 Uzbek_Latin_90_CI_AS
Vietnamese (Vietnam) 0x042a 0x042a Vietnamese_CI_AS
Welsh (United Kingdom) 0x0452 0x0452 Latin1_General_CI_AI
Wolof (Senegal) 0x0488 0x040c French_CI_AS
Xhosa/isiXhosa (South Africa) 0x0434 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Yi (PRC) 0x0478 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Yoruba (Nigeria) 0x046a 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS
Zulu/isiZulu (South Africa) 0x0435 0x0409 Latin1_General_CI_AS

After you've assigned a collation to the server, you can change it only by exporting all database objects and data, rebuilding the master database, and importing all database objects and data. Instead of changing the default collation of an instance of SQL Server, you can specify the desired collation when you create a new database or database column.

To query the server collation for an instance of SQL Server, use the SERVERPROPERTY function:

SELECT CONVERT(nvarchar(128), SERVERPROPERTY('collation'));

To query the server for all available collations, use the following fn_helpcollations() built-in function:

SELECT * FROM sys.fn_helpcollations();

Collations in Azure SQL Database

You cannot change or set the logical server collation on Azure SQL Database, but can configure each database's collations both for data and for the catalog. The catalog collation determines the collation for system metadata, such as object identifiers. Both collations can be specified independently when you create the database in the Azure portal, in T-SQL with CREATE DATABASE, in PowerShell with New-AzSqlDatabase.

Collations in Azure SQL Managed Instance

Server-level collation in Azure SQL Managed Instance can be specified when the instance is created and cannot be changed later.

For more information, see Set or Change the Server Collation.

Database-level collations

When you create or modify a database, you can use the COLLATE clause of the CREATE DATABASE or ALTER DATABASE statement to specify the default database collation. If no collation is specified, the database is assigned the server collation.

You can't change the collation of system databases unless you change the collation for the server.

  • In SQL Server and Azure SQL Managed Instance, the database collation is used for all metadata in the database, and the collation is the default for all string columns, temporary objects, variable names, and any other strings used in the database.
  • In Azure SQL Database, there is no server collation, so each database has a collation for data and a collation for the catalog. The CATALOG_COLLATION is used for all metadata in the database, and the collation is the default for all string columns, temporary objects, variable names, and any other strings used in the database. The CATALOG_COLLATION is set upon creation and cannot be changed.

When you change the collation of a user database, there can be collation conflicts when queries in the database access temporary tables. Temporary tables are always stored in the tempdb system database, which uses the collation for the instance. Queries that compare character data between the user database and tempdb might fail if the collations cause a conflict in evaluating the character data. You can resolve this issue by specifying the COLLATE clause in the query. For more information, see COLLATE (Transact-SQL).

You can change the collation of a user database by using an ALTER DATABASE statement similar to the following code sample:



Altering the database-level collation doesn't affect column-level or expression-level collations. It does not affect data in existing columns.

You can retrieve the current collation of a database by using a statement similar to the following code sample:

SELECT CONVERT (nvarchar(128), DATABASEPROPERTYEX('database_name', 'collation'));

Column-level collations

When you create or alter a table, you can specify collations for each character-string column by using the COLLATE clause. If you don't specify a collation, the column is assigned the default collation of the database.

You can change the collation of a column by using an ALTER TABLE statement similar to the following code sample:


Expression-level collations

Expression-level collations are set when a statement is run, and they affect the way a result set is returned. This enables ORDER BY sort results to be locale-specific. To implement expression-level collations, use a COLLATE clause such as the following code sample:

SELECT name FROM customer ORDER BY name COLLATE Latin1_General_CS_AI;


A locale is a set of information that's associated with a location or a culture. The information can include the name and identifier of the spoken language, the script that's used to write the language, and cultural conventions. Collations can be associated with one or more locales. For more information, see Locale IDs Assigned by Microsoft.

Code page

A code page is an ordered set of characters of a given script in which a numeric index, or code point value, is associated with each character. A Windows code page is typically referred to as a character set or a charset. Code pages are used to provide support for the character sets and keyboard layouts that are used by different Windows system locales.

Sort order

Sort order specifies how data values are sorted. The order affects the results of data comparison. Data is sorted by using collations, and it can be optimized by using indexes.

Unicode support

Unicode is a standard for mapping code points to characters. Because it's designed to cover all the characters of all the languages of the world, you don't need different code pages to handle different sets of characters.

Unicode basics

Storing data in multiple languages within one database is difficult to manage when you use only character data and code pages. It's also difficult to find one code page for the database that can store all the required language-specific characters. Additionally, it's difficult to guarantee the correct translation of special characters when they're being read or updated by a variety of clients that are running various code pages. Databases that support international clients should always use Unicode data types instead of non-Unicode data types.

For example, consider a database of customers in North America that must handle three major languages:

  • Spanish names and addresses for Mexico
  • French names and addresses for Quebec
  • English names and addresses for the rest of Canada and the United States

When you use only character columns and code pages, you must take care to ensure that the database is installed with a code page that will handle the characters of all three languages. You must also take care to guarantee the correct translation of characters from any of the languages when the characters are read by clients that are running a code page for another language.


The code pages that a client uses are determined by the operating system (OS) settings. To set client code pages on the Windows operating system, use Regional Settings in Control Panel.

It would be difficult to select a code page for character data types that will support all the characters that are required by a worldwide audience. The easiest way to manage character data in international databases is to always use a data type that supports Unicode.

Unicode data types

If you store character data that reflects multiple languages in SQL Server (SQL Server 2005 (9.x) and later), use Unicode data types (nchar, nvarchar, and ntext) instead of non-Unicode data types (char, varchar, and text).


For Unicode data types, the Database Engine can represent up to 65,536 characters using UCS-2, or the full Unicode range (‭1,114,112‬ characters) if supplementary characters are used. For more information about enabling supplementary characters, see Supplementary Characters.

Alternatively, starting with SQL Server 2019 (15.x), if a UTF-8 enabled collation (_UTF8) is used, previously non-Unicode data types (char and varchar) become Unicode data types using UTF-8 encoding. SQL Server 2019 (15.x) doesn't change the behavior of previously existing Unicode data types (nchar, nvarchar, and ntext), which continue to use UCS-2 or UTF-16 encoding. For more information, see Storage differences between UTF-8 and UTF-16.

Unicode considerations

Significant limitations are associated with non-Unicode data types. This is because a non-Unicode computer is limited to using a single code page. You might experience performance gain by using Unicode, because it requires fewer code-page conversions. Unicode collations must be selected individually at the database, column, or expression level because they aren't supported at the server level.

When you move data from a server to a client, your server collation might not be recognized by older client drivers. This can occur when you move data from a Unicode server to a non-Unicode client. Your best option might be to upgrade the client operating system so that the underlying system collations are updated. If the client has database client software installed, you might consider applying a service update to the database client software.


You can also try to use a different collation for the data on the server. Choose a collation that maps to a code page on the client.

To use the UTF-16 collations that are available in SQL Server (SQL Server 2012 (11.x) and later) to improve searching and sorting of some Unicode characters (Windows collations only), you can select either one of the supplementary characters (_SC) collations or one of the version 140 collations.

To use the UTF-8 collations that are available in SQL Server 2019 (15.x), and to improve searching and sorting of some Unicode characters (Windows collations only), you must select UTF-8 encoding-enabled collations(_UTF8).

  • The UTF8 flag can be applied to:

    • Linguistic collations that already support supplementary characters (_SC) or variation-selector-sensitive (_VSS) awareness
    • BIN2 binary collation
  • The UTF8 flag can't be applied to:

    • Linguistic collations that don't support supplementary characters (_SC) or variation-selector-sensitive (_VSS) awareness
    • The BIN binary collations
    • The SQL_* collations

To evaluate issues that are related to using Unicode or non-Unicode data types, test your scenario to measure performance differences in your environment. It's a good practice to standardize the collation that's used on systems across your organization, and to deploy Unicode servers and clients wherever possible.

In many situations, SQL Server interacts with other servers or clients, and your organization might use multiple data-access standards between applications and server instances. SQL Server clients are one of two main types:

  • Unicode clients that use OLE DB and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) version 3.7 or later.
  • Non-Unicode clients that use DB-Library and ODBC version 3.6 or earlier.

The following table provides information about using multilingual data with various combinations of Unicode and non-Unicode servers:

Server Client Benefits or limitations
Unicode Unicode Because Unicode data is used throughout the system, this scenario provides the best performance and protection from corruption of retrieved data. This is the situation with ActiveX Data Objects (ADO), OLE DB, and ODBC version 3.7 or later.
Unicode Non-Unicode In this scenario, especially with connections between a server that's running a newer operating system and a client that's running an earlier version of SQL Server, or on an older operating system, there can be limitations or errors when you move data to a client computer. Unicode data on the server tries to map to a corresponding code page on the non-Unicode client to convert the data.
Non-Unicode Unicode This isn't an ideal configuration for using multilingual data. You can't write Unicode data to the non-Unicode server. Problems are likely to occur when data is sent to servers that are outside the server's code page.
Non-Unicode Non-Unicode This is a very limiting scenario for multilingual data. You can use only a single code page.

Supplementary characters

The Unicode Consortium allocates to each character a unique code point, which is a value in the range 000000–10FFFF. The most frequently used characters have code point values in the range 000000–00FFFF (65,536 characters) which fit into an 8-bit or 16-bit word in memory and on-disk. This range is usually designated as the Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP).

But the Unicode Consortium has established 16 additional "planes" of characters, each the same size as the BMP. This definition allows Unicode the potential to represent 1,114,112 characters (that is, 216 * 17 characters) within the code point range 000000–10FFFF. Characters with code point value larger than 00FFFF require two to four consecutive 8-bit words (UTF-8), or two consecutive 16-bit words (UTF-16). These characters located beyond the BMP are called supplementary characters, and the additional consecutive 8-bit or 16-bit words are called surrogate pairs. For more information about supplementary characters, surrogates, and surrogate pairs, see the Unicode Standard.

SQL Server provides data types such as nchar and nvarchar to store Unicode data in the BMP range (000000–00FFFF), which the Database Engine encodes using UCS-2.

SQL Server 2012 (11.x) introduced a new family of supplementary character (_SC) collations that can be used with the nchar, nvarchar, and sql_variant data types to represent the full Unicode character range (000000–10FFFF). For example: Latin1_General_100_CI_AS_SC or, if you're using a Japanese collation, Japanese_Bushu_Kakusu_100_CI_AS_SC.

SQL Server 2019 (15.x) extends supplementary character support to the char and varchar data types with the new UTF-8 enabled collations (_UTF8). These data types are also capable of representing the full Unicode character range.


Starting with SQL Server 2017 (14.x), all new collations automatically support supplementary characters.

If you use supplementary characters:

  • Supplementary characters can be used in ordering and comparison operations in collation versions 90 or greater.

  • All version 100 collations support linguistic sorting with supplementary characters.

  • Supplementary characters aren't supported for use in metadata, such as in names of database objects.

  • The SC flag can be applied to:

    • Version 90 collations
    • Version 100 collations
  • The SC flag can't be applied to:

    • Version 80 non-versioned Windows collations
    • The BIN or BIN2 binary collations
    • The SQL* collations
    • Version 140 collations (these don't need the SC flag, because they already support supplementary characters)

The following table compares the behavior of some string functions and string operators when they use supplementary characters with and without a supplementary character-aware (SCA) collation:

String function or operator With an SCA collation Without an SCA collation


The UTF-16 surrogate pair is counted as a single code point. The UTF-16 surrogate pair is counted as two code points.





These functions treat each surrogate pair as a single code point and work as expected. These functions might split any surrogate pairs and lead to unexpected results.
NCHAR Returns the character that corresponds to the specified Unicode code point value in the range 0–0x10FFFF. If the specified value lies in the range 0–0xFFFF, one character is returned. For higher values, the corresponding surrogate is returned. A value higher than 0xFFFF returns NULL instead of the corresponding surrogate.
UNICODE Returns a UTF-16 code point in the range 0–0x10FFFF. Returns a UCS-2 code point in the range 0–0xFFFF.
Match One Character Wildcard

Wildcard - Character(s) Not to Match
Supplementary characters are supported for all wildcard operations. Supplementary characters aren't supported for these wildcard operations. Other wildcard operators are supported.

GB18030 support

GB18030 is a separate standard that's used in the People's Republic of China for encoding Chinese characters. In GB18030, characters can be 1, 2, or 4 bytes in length. SQL Server provides support for GB18030-encoded characters by recognizing them when they enter the server from a client-side application and converting and storing them natively as Unicode characters. After they're stored in the server, they're treated as Unicode characters in any subsequent operations.

You can use any Chinese collation, preferably the latest 100 version. All version 100 collations support linguistic sorting with GB18030 characters. If the data includes supplementary characters (surrogate pairs), you can use the SC collations that are available in SQL Server to improve searching and sorting.


Ensure that your client tools, such as SQL Server Management Studio, use the Dengxian font to correctly display strings that contain GB18030-encoded characters.

Complex script support

SQL Server can support inputting, storing, changing, and displaying complex scripts. Complex scripts include the following types:

  • Scripts that include the combination of both right-to-left and left-to-right text, such as a combination of Arabic and English text.
  • Scripts whose characters change shape depending on their position, or when combined with other characters, such as Arabic, Indic, and Thai characters.
  • Languages, such as Thai, that require internal dictionaries to recognize words because there are no breaks between them.

Database applications that interact with SQL Server must use controls that support complex scripts. Standard Windows form controls that are created in managed code are complex-script-enabled.

Japanese collations added in SQL Server 2017 (14.x)

Starting with SQL Server 2017 (14.x), new Japanese collation families are supported, with the permutations of various options (_CS, _AS, _KS, _WS, and _VSS), as well as _BIN and _BIN2.

To list these collations, you can query the SQL Server Database Engine:

SELECT name, description
FROM sys.fn_helpcollations()  
WHERE  COLLATIONPROPERTY(name, 'Version') = 3;

All the new collations have built-in support for supplementary characters, so none of the new 140 collations has (or needs) the SC flag.

These collations are supported in Database Engine indexes, memory-optimized tables, columnstore indexes, and natively compiled modules.

UTF-8 support

SQL Server 2019 (15.x) introduces full support for the widely used UTF-8 character encoding as an import or export encoding, and as database-level or column-level collation for string data. UTF-8 is allowed in the char and varchar data types, and it's enabled when you create or change an object's collation to a collation that has a UTF8 suffix. One example is changing LATIN1_GENERAL_100_CI_AS_SC to LATIN1_GENERAL_100_CI_AS_SC_UTF8.

UTF-8 is available only to Windows collations that support supplementary characters, as introduced in SQL Server 2012 (11.x). The nchar and nvarchar data types allow UCS-2 or UTF-16 encoding only, and they remain unchanged.

Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance also support UTF-8 on database and column level, while SQL Managed Instance supports this on a server level as well.

Storage differences between UTF-8 and UTF-16

The Unicode Consortium allocates to each character a unique code point, which is a value in the range 000000–10FFFF. With SQL Server 2019 (15.x), both UTF-8 and UTF-16 encodings are available to represent the full range:

  • With UTF-8 encoding, characters in the ASCII range (000000–00007F) require 1 byte, code points 000080–0007FF require 2 bytes, code points 000800–00FFFF require 3 bytes, and code points 0010000–0010FFFF require 4 bytes.
  • With UTF-16 encoding, code points 000000–00FFFF require 2 bytes, and code points 0010000–0010FFFF require 4 bytes.

The following table lists the encoding storage bytes for each character range and encoding type:

Code range (hexadecimal) Code range (decimal) Storage bytes1 with UTF-8 Storage bytes1 with UTF-16
000000–00007F 0–127 1 2
2 2
3 2


4 4

1 Storage bytes refer to the encoded byte length, not the data-type on-disk storage size. For more information about on-disk storage sizes, see nchar and nvarchar and char and varchar.

2 The code point range for supplementary characters.


It's a common perception, in CHAR(n) and VARCHAR(n) or in NCHAR(n) and NVARCHAR(n), that n defines the number of characters. This is because, in the example of a CHAR(10) column, 10 ASCII characters in the range 0–127 can be stored by using a collation such as Latin1_General_100_CI_AI, because each character in this range uses only 1 byte.

However, in CHAR(n) and VARCHAR(n), n defines the string size in bytes (0–8,000), and in NCHAR(n) and NVARCHAR(n), n defines the string size in byte-pairs (0–4,000). n never defines numbers of characters that can be stored.

As you've just seen, choosing the appropriate Unicode encoding and data type might give you significant storage savings or increase your current storage footprint, depending on the character set in use. For example, when you use a Latin collation that's UTF-8 enabled, such as Latin1_General_100_CI_AI_SC_UTF8, a char(10) column stores 10 bytes and can hold 10 ASCII characters in the range 0–127. But it can hold only five characters in the range 128–2047 and only three characters in the range 2048–65535. By comparison, because a nchar(10) column stores 10 byte-pairs (20 bytes), it can hold 10 characters in the range 0–65535.

Before you decide whether to use UTF-8 or UTF-16 encoding for a database or column, consider the distribution of string data that will be stored:

  • If it's mostly in the ASCII range 0–127 (such as English), each character requires 1 byte with UTF-8 and 2 bytes with UTF-16. Using UTF-8 provides storage benefits. Changing an existing column data type with ASCII characters in the range 0–127 from nchar(10) to char(10), and using an UTF-8 enabled collation, translates into a 50 percent reduction in storage requirements. This reduction is because nchar(10) requires 20 bytes for storage, compared with char(10), which requires 10 bytes for the same Unicode string representation.
  • Above the ASCII range, almost all Latin-based script, and Greek, Cyrillic, Coptic, Armenian, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Tāna, and N'Ko, require 2 bytes per character in both UTF-8 and UTF-16. In these cases, there are no significant storage differences for comparable data types (for example, between using char or nchar).
  • If it's mostly East Asian script (such as Korean, Chinese, and Japanese), each character requires 3 bytes with UTF-8 and 2 bytes with UTF-16. Using UTF-16 provides storage benefits.
  • Characters in the range 010000–10FFFF require 4 bytes in both UTF-8 and UTF-16. In these cases, there are no storage differences for comparable data types (for example, between using char or nchar).

For other considerations, see Write International Transact-SQL Statements.

Convert to UTF-8

Because in CHAR(n) and VARCHAR(n) or in NCHAR(n) and NVARCHAR(n), the n defines the byte storage size, not the number of characters that can be stored, it's important to determine the data type size you must convert to. The characters that exceed the size are to be truncated.

For example, consider a column defined as NVARCHAR(100) that stores 180 bytes of Japanese characters. In this example, the column data is currently encoded using UCS-2 or UTF-16, which uses 2 bytes per character. Converting the column type to VARCHAR(200) isn't sufficient to prevent data truncation, because the new data type can only store 200 bytes, but Japanese characters require 3 bytes when encoded in UTF-8. The column must be defined as VARCHAR(270) to avoid data loss through data truncation.

Therefore, it's required to know in advance what the projected byte size is for the column definition before converting existing data to UTF-8, and adjust the new data type size accordingly. Refer to the Transact-SQL script or the SQL Notebook in the Data Samples GitHub, which use the DATALENGTH function and the COLLATE statement to determine the appropriate data length requirements for UTF-8 conversion operations in an existing database.

To change the column collation and data type in an existing table, use one of the methods described in Set or Change the Column Collation.

To change the database collation, allowing new objects to inherit the database collation by default, or to change the server collation, allowing new databases to inherit the system collation by default, see the Related tasks section of this article.

Task Article
Describes how to set or change the collation of the instance of SQL Server. Changing the server collation doesn't change the collation of existing databases. Set or Change the Server Collation
Describes how to set or change the collation of a user database. Changing a database collation doesn't change the collation of existing table columns. Set or Change the Database Collation
Describes how to set or change the collation of a column in the database. Set or Change the Column Collation
Describes how to return collation information at the server, database, or column level. View Collation Information
Describes how to write Transact-SQL statements that are more portable from one language to another, or support multiple languages more easily. Write International Transact-SQL Statements
Describes how to change the language of error messages and preferences for how date, time, and currency data are used and displayed. Set a Session Language