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DB2 regular expressions for the SQL-challenged

A short (and wacky) introduction to regular expressions in DB2.

This tip was originally posted on

Quiz: Regular expressions refer to...

  1. Happy faces at end of Metamucil commercials.
  2. Charles Dickens' prequel that began "It was the most ordinary of times."
  3. Unixy pattern matching that buries DB2's LIKE wildcards. <=== PICK ME!!!!!

Fans of MySQL and mSQL taunt DB2 users about DB2's lack of support for the non-standard RLIKE/REGEXP facility in SELECT and other SQL statements.


Here's a comparison of standard SQL LIKE vs MySQL's RLIKE/REGEXP:

SQL LIKE pattern matching...

_           Matches any single character 
%           Matches 0 or more characters of any value 
\          Escapes special characters  

All other characters match themselves

MySQL RLIKE/REGEXP pattern matching...

^           Match the beginning of the string  
$           Match the end of string  
. (period)  Match any single character  
[...]       Match any character between the brackets  
[^...]      Match any character not between the brackets  
E*          Match zero or more instance of pattern E  
E+          Match one or more instance of pattern E  
E?          Match zero or one instance of pattern E  
E1 | E2     Match E1 or E2  
E{m}        Match m instances of E  
E{,n}       Match zero to n instances of E  
E{m,}       Match m or more instances of E  
E{m,n}      Match m to n instances of E  
(...)       Group elements in to one element 

All other characters match themselves.

Expression results:

"abc"       REGEXP   "a.c"        returns 1
"abc"       REGEXP   "[a-z]"      returns 1
"abc"       REGEXP   "[^a-z]"     returns 0
"abc"       REGEXP   "^abc$"      returns 1
"abcd"      REGEXP   "^abc$"      returns 0
"abc"       REGEXP   "(abc){2}"   returns 0
"abcabc"    REGEXP   "(abc){2}"   returns 1

For dessert partake of San Diego State University's Roger Whitney's compendium.

Fans of Informix may have rolled their own UDRs (User Defined Routines) to extend SQL functionality. DB2 users can do likewise with UDFs (User Defined Functions).

Read more at Grok.

DB2 users *may* find various DB2 Extender features barely sufficient, especially character and word matching.

Settle for

DB2 users can thank IBMer Knut Stolze for his very recent contribution on the use of regular expressions in SQL queries via UDFs. Complete with SQL and C source code examples and the following UDFs:

mi_boolean      regexp_match_char (mi_lvarchar *str_txt, mi_lvarchar *exp_txt);
mi_boolean      regexp_match_clob (MI_LO_HANDLE *src, mi_lvarchar  *re);
mi_lvarchar  * regexp_replace_char_n (mi_lvarchar *str_txt,
                       mi_lvarchar *exp_txt, mi_lvarchar *rep_txt, mi_integer limit);
mi_lvarchar  * regexp_replace_char (mi_lvarchar *str_txt, mi_lvarchar *exp_txt,
                       mi_lvarchar *rep_txt);
MI_LO_HANDLE * regexp_replace_clob_n (MI_LO_HANDLE *str_txt,
                       mi_lvarchar *exp_txt, mi_lvarchar *rep_txt, mi_integer limit);
MI_LO_HANDLE * regexp_replace_clob (MI_LO_HANDLE *str_txt,
                       mi_lvarchar *exp_txt, mi_lvarchar *rep_txt);
mi_lvarchar  * regexp_extract_n (mi_lvarchar *str_txt, mi_lvarchar *exp_txt, 
                       mi_integer limit, MI_FPARAM *fParam);
mi_lvarchar  * regexp_extract (mi_lvarchar *str_txt, mi_lvarchar *exp_txt,
                       MI_FPARAM *fParam); 
mi_lvarchar  * regexp_split_n (mi_lvarchar *str_txt, mi_lvarchar *exp_txt,
                       mi_integer  limit, MI_FPARAM *fParam);
mi_lvarchar  * regexp_split (mi_lvarchar *str_txt, mi_lvarchar *exp_txt,
                       MI_FPARAM *fParam);

Gorge on

Investigate open source for z/OS & USS, especially grep & vim which both invoke regexp.

Cram tonight on

The modified components of open source for z/OS are available if you politely entreat IBMer Steve Stiert via email to

Spelunk z/OS public forums referenced at

For extra credit envision stored procedures invoking regexp functionality as an alternative to UDFs.

About the Author

Jim Keohane is president of New York consulting company Multi-Platforms, Inc. His company specializes in commercial software development/consulting with emphasis on cross-platform and performance issues.

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