Sql – Database Design for Tagging


How would you design a database to support the following tagging features:

  • items can have a large number of tags
  • searches for all items that are tagged with a given set of tags must be quick (the items must have ALL tags, so it's an AND-search, not an OR-search)
  • creating/writing items may be slower to enable quick lookup/reading

Ideally, the lookup of all items that are tagged with (at least) a set of n given tags should be done using a single SQL statement. Since the number of tags to search for as well as the number of tags on any item are unknown and may be high, using JOINs is impractical.

Any ideas?

Thanks for all the answers so far.

If I'm not mistaken, however, the given answers show how to do an OR-search on tags. (Select all items that have one or more of n tags). I am looking for an efficient AND-search. (Select all items that have ALL n tags – and possibly more.)

Best Solution

Here's a good article on tagging Database schemas:


along with performance tests:


Note that the conclusions there are very specific to MySQL, which (at least in 2005 at the time that was written) had very poor full text indexing characteristics.

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