Variables (Transact-SQL)

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

A Transact-SQL local variable is an object that can hold a single data value of a specific type. Variables in batches and scripts are typically used:

  • As a counter either to count the number of times a loop is performed, or to control how many times the loop is performed.
  • To hold a data value to be tested by a control-of-flow statement.
  • To save a data value to be returned by a stored procedure return code or function return value.


The names of some Transact-SQL system functions begin with two at signs (@@). Although in earlier versions of SQL Server, the @@ functions are referred to as global variables, @@ functions aren't variables, and they don't have the same behaviors as variables. The @@ functions are system functions, and their syntax usage follows the rules for functions.

You can't use variables in a view.

Changes to variables aren't affected by the rollback of a transaction.

Declare a Transact-SQL variable

The DECLARE statement initializes a Transact-SQL variable by:

  • Assigning a name. The name must have a single @ as the first character.

  • Assigning a system-supplied or user-defined data type and a length. For numeric variables, a precision and scale are also assigned. For variables of type XML, an optional schema collection might be assigned.

  • Setting the value to NULL.

For example, the following DECLARE statement creates a local variable named @mycounter with an int data type. By default, the value for this variable is NULL.


To declare more than one local variable, use a comma after the first local variable defined, and then specify the next local variable name and data type.

For example, the following DECLARE statement creates three local variables named @LastName, @FirstName and @StateProvince, and initializes each to NULL:

DECLARE @LastName NVARCHAR(30), @FirstName NVARCHAR(20), @StateProvince NCHAR(2);

In another example, the following DECLARE statement creates a Boolean variable called @IsActive, which is declared as bit with a value of 0 (false):

DECLARE @IsActive BIT = 0;

Variable scope

The scope of a variable is the range of Transact-SQL statements that can reference the variable. The scope of a variable lasts from the point it's declared until the end of the batch or stored procedure in which it's declared. For example, the following script generates a syntax error because the variable is declared in one batch (separated by the GO keyword) and referenced in another:

USE AdventureWorks2022;

DECLARE @MyVariable INT;

SET @MyVariable = 1;

SELECT BusinessEntityID,
FROM HumanResources.Employee
WHERE BusinessEntityID = @MyVariable;

Variables have local scope and are only visible within the batch or procedure where they're defined. In the following example, the nested scope created for execution of sp_executesql doesn't have access to the variable declared in the higher scope and returns and error.

DECLARE @MyVariable INT;
SET @MyVariable = 1;
EXECUTE sp_executesql N'SELECT @MyVariable'; -- this produces an error

Set a value in a Transact-SQL variable

When a variable is first declared, its value is set to NULL. To assign a value to a variable, use the SET statement. This is the preferred method of assigning a value to a variable. A variable can also have a value assigned by being referenced in the select list of a SELECT statement.

To assign a variable a value by using the SET statement, include the variable name and the value to assign to the variable. This is the preferred method of assigning a value to a variable. The following batch, for example, declares two variables, assigns values to them, and then uses them in the WHERE clause of a SELECT statement:

USE AdventureWorks2022;

-- Declare two variables.
DECLARE @FirstNameVariable NVARCHAR(50),
    @PostalCodeVariable NVARCHAR(15);

-- Set their values.
SET @FirstNameVariable = N'Amy';
SET @PostalCodeVariable = N'BA5 3HX';

-- Use them in the WHERE clause of a SELECT statement.
SELECT LastName,
FROM HumanResources.vEmployee
WHERE FirstName = @FirstNameVariable
    OR PostalCode = @PostalCodeVariable;

A variable can also have a value assigned by being referenced in a select list. If a variable is referenced in a select list, it should be assigned a scalar value or the SELECT statement should only return one row. For example:

USE AdventureWorks2022;

SELECT @EmpIDVariable = MAX(EmployeeID)
FROM HumanResources.Employee;


If there are multiple assignment clauses in a single SELECT statement, SQL Server doesn't guarantee the order of evaluation of the expressions. Effects are only visible if there are references among the assignments.

If a SELECT statement returns more than one row and the variable references a nonscalar expression, the variable is set to the value returned for the expression in the last row of the result set. For example, in the following batch @EmpIDVariable is set to the BusinessEntityID value of the last row returned, which is 1:

USE AdventureWorks2022;

SELECT @EmpIDVariable = BusinessEntityID
FROM HumanResources.Employee
ORDER BY BusinessEntityID DESC;

SELECT @EmpIDVariable;


The following script creates a small test table and populates it with 26 rows. The script uses a variable to do three things:

  • Control how many rows are inserted by controlling how many times the loop is executed.
  • Supply the value inserted into the integer column.
  • Function as part of the expression that generates letters to be inserted into the character column.
-- Create the table.
CREATE TABLE TestTable (cola INT, colb CHAR(3));


-- Declare the variable to be used.

-- Initialize the variable.
SET @MyCounter = 0;

-- Test the variable to see if the loop is finished.
WHILE (@MyCounter < 26)
    -- Insert a row into the table.
    INSERT INTO TestTable
        -- Use the variable to provide the integer value
        -- for cola. Also use it to generate a unique letter
        -- for each row. Use the ASCII function to get the
        -- integer value of 'a'. Add @MyCounter. Use CHAR to
        -- convert the sum back to the character @MyCounter
        -- characters after 'a'.
        CHAR((@MyCounter + ASCII('a')))

    -- Increment the variable to count this iteration
    -- of the loop.
    SET @MyCounter = @MyCounter + 1;


-- View the data.
SELECT cola, colb FROM TestTable;