What is a relational database? A relational database is a collection of tabular data, or the application that manages the storage and retrieval of tabular data. Relational databases contain tables, made up of columns (also known as fields) and rows (also known as records). You’ll establish relationships between tables in a database by assigning a single field to two or more tables. For one of those tables, that field will be designated as an entity key, while for the other(s) it’ll be a foreign key. With these relationships in place, you can query data (probably using SQL) across tables without having to reorganize or duplicate that data. Introduced in the early 1970s, relational databases remain a (if not the) dominant model for structuring data today. While technically a relational database refers to your data itself and a relational database management system (RDBMS) refers to the software application you use to manage that data, in reality people use the terms interchangeably. The relational model is so prevalent that in many contexts, the word “database” itself implies a relational one, unless otherwise specified. Example relational database Metabase’s Sample Database (the one you see used in examples throughout our docs and tutorials) is an H2 relational database. Figure 1 shows a look at the four tables in the Sample Database: Fig. 1. Metabase's Sample Database (a relational database) contains four tables: Products, Orders, People, and Reviews. Key article A short overview of databases Related terms Column Row Field Record Table Normalization Schema ERD Further reading Database fundamentals track Did this article help you? Yes No Send Thanks for your feedback!