How to Order by Month Name in MySQL: A Straightforward Guide for Beginners

By Cris •  Updated: 09/22/23 •  8 min read

Working with databases, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll encounter the need to sort results by date. Specifically in MySQL, there’s a bit of a quirk when it comes to ordering by month name – and I’m here to guide you through it.

MySQL doesn’t inherently understand our calendar months as we know them. January, February, March? Nope. To MySQL, they’re just text strings with no inherent order other than alphabetical. So if you’ve tried sorting your data by month and have been baffled seeing April appear before January, don’t worry – you’re not alone!

In this article, I’ll walk you through how to order by month name in MySQL, helping your database make sense of the calendar just like we humans do. By the time we’re done here, ‘April’ will be taking its rightful place after ‘March’, and all will be right in your SQL world!

Understanding MySQL Date and Time Data Types

Before diving into how to order by month name in MySQL, it’s essential we get a solid grip on the date and time data types that MySQL uses. There are three major date and time data types you’ll encounter in MySQL: DATE, TIME, and DATETIME.

DATE values are used to store dates (without times) in the format ‘YYYY-MM-DD’. For instance, 2022-03-01 represents March 1, 2022. This type can handle dates from ‘1000-01-01’ up to ‘9999-12-31’.

Next up is the TIME data type. It’s used for storing time-of-day or duration values like ’13:45:30′ (1:45 PM plus 30 seconds). The range of this data type extends from ‘-838:59:59’ to ‘838:59:59’.

Then there’s the versatile DATETIME type. This one does double duty, storing both a date and a time together as one value. Its format is ‘YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS’. A typical example would be something like ‘2022-03-01 13:45:30’, representing March 1, 2022 at 1:45 PM plus thirty seconds.

Let’s not forget about YEAR and TIMESTAMP. The former stores year information only while the latter keeps track of a specific point in time.

Here’s an overview:

Data Type Description Format Range
DATE Stores dates YYYY-MM-DD 1000-01-01 to 9999-12-31
TIME Stores times HH:mm:ss -838::59::59 to +838::59::59
DATETIME Stores date + time YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS 1000-01-01 00:00:00 to 9999-12-31 23:59:59
YEAR Stores year only YYYY 1901 to 2155, and 0000
TIMESTAMP Specific point in time YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS 1970-01-01 00:00:01 UTC to part of 2038-01-19

Understanding these data types inside out is key when you’re dealing with MySQL databases. It’s not just about storing dates or times; it’s also about manipulating them in ways that make sense for our queries—like ordering by month name, for example. So let’s keep this knowledge close as we move on to the next sections.

Methods for Extracting Month Name from Dates in MySQL

Diving straight into the heart of MySQL, I’d like to shed some light on how to extract month names from dates. It’s not rocket science but it does require a decent understanding of SQL syntax and functions. Let me walk you through it.

First off, MySQL provides us with a pretty handy function called MONTHNAME(). This function takes a date as an argument and returns the name of the month. Here’s how you’d use it:

SELECT MONTHNAME('2022-07-25') AS 'Month Name';

When executed, this query will return ‘July’. It’s that simple!

But what if your date is part of a larger dataset? Well, you can just as easily apply the MONTHNAME() function within a SELECT statement. For instance:

SELECT OrderID, MONTHNAME(OrderDate) AS 'Month Name'
FROM Orders;

In this example, we’re extracting the month name from each date in the ‘OrderDate’ column of our hypothetical ‘Orders’ table.

Let’s say you’ve got dates stored as strings rather than actual DATE or DATETIME types (which happens more often than you’d think). In these cases, first you’ll need to convert those strings into DATE format using STR_TO_DATE() before applying MONTHNAME(). Here’s an example:

SELECT MONTHNAME(STR_TO_DATE('07/25/2022', '%m/%d/%Y')) AS 'Month Name';

Watch out for common mistakes though! An easy one to make is forgetting that months returned by MONTHNAME() are capitalized (‘January’, not ‘january’). Also remember MONTHNAME() won’t work if your date string doesn’t match MySQL’s YYYY-MM-DD format unless converted using STR_TO_DATE().

I hope this has been a helpful dive into extracting month names from dates in MySQL. Stay tuned for more SQL tips and tricks!

How to Sort Records by Month Name in MySQL

Working with databases, I often find myself needing to sort records based on the month’s names. It’s not as straightforward as it might seem in MySQL, but luckily there’s a handy way to get around this issue. To do it, you’ll need to use the FIELD function along with your ORDER BY clause. Let me explain how.

Consider we have a table named ‘sales’ which has columns ‘id’, ‘item’, and ‘sale_date’. Now suppose we want to sort all records by the name of the sale month in ascending order. Here is how you can do that:

SELECT id, item, MONTHNAME(sale_date) as SaleMonth 
FROM sales 
ORDER BY FIELD(MONTHNAME(sale_date), "January", "February", "March", "April", "May", "June",

In this query, the MONTHNAME function is used to extract the month from the ‘sale_date’ column. The FIELD function then sorts these months according to their natural order instead of alphabetical order.

But what if you want descending order? There’s a twist here! MySQL doesn’t directly support sorting strings in reverse natural order using FIELD(). So, you’ll have to be creative like so:

SELECT id, item, MONTHNAME(sale_date) AS SaleMonth 
FROM sales 
ORDER BY FIELD(MONTHNAME(sale_date), "December","November","October","September",
"August","July", "June", "May",  "April",  "March",  "February",
"January") DESC;

Here we’ve included our months in reverse and added DESC at last – voila!

However one common mistake is forgetting that MySQL is case-sensitive. If your data includes month names that aren’t capitalized, your query may not return the expected result. So ensure that the case of month names in the FIELD function matches exactly with your data.

While this method works great for months, remember it’s not limited to them. You can use the same trick to sort any set of strings in a particular order as defined by you. Isn’t MySQL flexible?

Common Challenges and Solutions When Ordering by Month Name

Diving headfirst into the world of MySQL, it’s not uncommon to encounter a few stumbling blocks. One such challenge is how to properly order by month name. If you’ve ever tried this, you’ll probably have noticed that MySQL doesn’t always behave as expected.

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that MySQL orders alphabetically by default. So when we attempt to order our data based on month names, we often end up with results like “April” appearing before “January”. Not quite what we’re after!

Here’s what typically goes wrong:

SELECT * FROM your_table
ORDER BY month_name;

This code would result in an alphabetical rather than chronological sorting of months, which is likely not what was intended.

But fear not! The solution is straightforward once you know where to look. We simply need to remind MySQL that month names follow a certain sequence. Here’s your secret weapon:

SELECT *, FIELD(month_name,'January','February', 'March', 'April',
'May','June','July','August', 'September','October',
'November', 'December') AS month_order 
FROM your_table
ORDER BY month_order;

This snippet instructs MySQL to allocate numbers 1-12 for January through December respectively. Now when you run your query, the results will be ordered chronologically just as you’d hoped!

However, it’s worth noting that there are other potential pitfalls lurking around corners. For instance:

Now that I’ve armed you with some knowledge and handy code snippets, go forth and conquer those databases! Remember, there’s always a solution waiting to be found for every challenge in the realm of MySQL.

Conclusion: Key Takeaways on Ordering by Month in MySQL

So, we’ve reached the end of our journey into ordering data by month name in MySQL. I hope you’ve found the ride informative and are now equipped with some new SQL skills under your belt.

Let’s revisit some key points:

Here’s an example code again for reference:

ORDER BY FIELD(MONTHNAME(yourDate),'January', 'February', 'March', 'April', 'May', 'June', 

A common mistake is trying to order directly using MONTHNAME(), which would result in an alphabetical arrangement and not chronological.

-- Incorrect Ordering

Remember, practice makes perfect! So don’t shy away from experimenting with different data sets and queries. As long as you’re mindful of these key takeaways, I’m confident you’ll master ordering by month name in MySQL before you know it. Happy querying!


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