Data types in AQL

AQL supports both primitive data types consisting of exactly one value and compound data types comprised of multiple values

The following types are available:

Data typeDescription
nullAn empty value, also: the absence of a value
booleanBoolean truth value with possible values false and true
numberSigned (real) number
stringUTF-8 encoded text value
array / listSequence of values, referred to by their positions
object / documentSequence of values, referred to by their names

Primitive types

Null value

A null value can be used to represent an empty or absent value. It is different from a numerical value of zero (null != 0) and other falsy values (false or a zero-length string ""). It is also known as nil or None in other languages.

The system may return null in the absence of value, for example if you call a function with unsupported values as arguments or if you try to access an attribute which does not exist.

Boolean data type

The Boolean data type has two possible values, true and false. They represent the two truth values in logic and mathematics.

Numeric literals

Numeric literals can be integers or real values (floating-point numbers). They can optionally be signed with the + or - symbols. A decimal point . is used as separator for the optional fractional part. The scientific notation (E-notation) is also supported.


The following notations are invalid and will throw a syntax error:


All numeric values are treated as 64-bit signed integer or 64-bit double-precision floating point values internally. The internal floating-point format used is IEEE 754.

When exposing any numeric integer values to JavaScript via user-defined AQL functions, numbers that exceed 32 bit precision are converted to floating-point values, so large integers can lose some bits of precision. The same is true when converting AQL numeric results to JavaScript (e.g. returning them to Foxx).

Numeric integer literals can also be expressed as binary (base 2) or hexadecimal (base 16) number literals.

  • The prefix for binary integer literals is 0b, e.g. 0b10101110.
  • The prefix for hexadecimal integer literals is 0x, e.g. 0xabcdef02.

Binary and hexadecimal integer literals can only be used for unsigned integers. The maximum supported value for binary and hexadecimal numeric literals is 232 - 1, i.e. 0b11111111111111111111111111111111 (binary) or 0xffffffff (hexadecimal).

String literals

String literals must be enclosed in single or double quotes. If the used quote character is to be used itself within the string literal, it must be escaped using the backslash symbol. A literal backslash also needs to be escaped with a backslash.

"don't know"
"this is a \"quoted\" word"
"this is a longer string."
"the path separator on Windows is \\"

'don\'t know'
'this is a "quoted" word'
'this is a longer string.'
'the path separator on Windows is \\'

All string literals must be UTF-8 encoded. It is currently not possible to use arbitrary binary data if it is not UTF-8 encoded. A workaround to use binary data is to encode the data using Base64  or other algorithms on the application side before storing, and decoding it on application side after retrieval.

Compound types

AQL supports two compound types:

  • array: A composition of unnamed values, each accessible by their positions. Sometimes called list.
  • object: A composition of named values, each accessible by their names. A document is an object at the top level.

Arrays / Lists

The first supported compound type is the array type. Arrays are effectively sequences of (unnamed / anonymous) values. Individual array elements can be accessed by their positions. The order of elements in an array is important.

An array declaration starts with a left square bracket [ and ends with a right square bracket ]. The declaration contains zero, one or more expressions, separated from each other with the comma , symbol. Whitespace around elements is ignored in the declaration, thus line breaks, tab stops and blanks can be used for formatting.

In the easiest case, an array is empty and thus looks like:

[ ]

Array elements can be any legal expression values. Nesting of arrays is supported.

[ true ]
[ 1, 2, 3 ]
[ -99, "yikes!", [ false, ["no"], [] ], 1 ]
[ [ "fox", "marshal" ] ]

A trailing comma after the last element is allowed:

  3, // trailing comma

Individual array values can later be accessed by their positions using the [] accessor. The position of the accessed element must be a numeric value. Positions start at 0. It is also possible to use negative index values to access array values starting from the end of the array. This is convenient if the length of the array is unknown and access to elements at the end of the array is required.

// access 1st array element (elements start at index 0)

// access 3rd array element

// access last array element

// access second to last array element

Objects / Documents

The other supported compound type is the object (or document) type. Objects are a composition of zero to many attributes. Each attribute is a name/value pair. Object attributes can be accessed individually by their names. This data type is also known as dictionary, map, associative array and other names.

Object declarations start with a left curly bracket { and end with a right curly bracket }. An object contains zero to many attribute declarations, separated from each other with the , symbol. Whitespace around elements is ignored in the declaration, thus line breaks, tab stops and blanks can be used for formatting.

In the simplest case, an object is empty. Its declaration would then be:

{ }

Each attribute in an object is a name/value pair. Name and value of an attribute are separated using the colon : symbol. The name is always a string, whereas the value can be of any type including sub-objects.

The attribute name is mandatory - there can’t be anonymous values in an object. It can be specified as a quoted or unquoted string:

{ name:  }    // unquoted
{ 'name':  }  // quoted (apostrophe / "single quote mark")
{ "name":  }  // quoted (quotation mark / "double quote mark")

It must be quoted if it contains whitespace, escape sequences or characters other than ASCII letters (a-z, A-Z), digits (0-9), underscores (_) and dollar signs ($). The first character has to be a letter, underscore or dollar sign.

If a keyword is used as an attribute name, then the attribute name must be quoted:

{ return:  }    // error, return is a keyword!
{ 'return':  }  // quoted string literal (single quote marks)
{ "return":  }  // quoted string literal (double quote marks)
{ `return`:  }  // quoted name (backticks)
{ ´return´:  }  // quoted name (forward ticks)

A trailing comma after the last element is allowed:

  "a": 1,
  "b": 2,
  "c": 3, // trailing comma

Attribute names can be computed using dynamic expressions, too. To disambiguate regular attribute names from attribute name expressions, computed attribute names must be enclosed in square brackets [ … ]:

{ [ CONCAT("test/", "bar") ] : "someValue" }

There is also shorthand notation for attributes which is handy for returning existing variables easily:

LET name = "Peter"
LET age = 42
RETURN { name, age }

The above is the shorthand equivalent for the generic form:

LET name = "Peter"
LET age = 42
RETURN { name: name, age: age }

Any valid expression can be used as an attribute value. That also means nested objects can be used as attribute values:

{ name : "Peter" }
{ "name" : "Vanessa", "age" : 15 }
{ "name" : "John", likes : [ "Swimming", "Skiing" ], "address" : { "street" : "Cucumber lane", "zip" : "94242" } }

Individual object attributes can later be accessed by their names using the dot . accessor:

Attributes can also be accessed using the square bracket [] accessor:


In contrast to the dot accessor, the square brackets allow for expressions:

LET attr1 = "friends"
LET attr2 = "name"
u[attr1][0][attr2][ CONCAT("fir", "st") ]
If a non-existing attribute is accessed in one or the other way, the result will be null, without error or warning.