AQL supports a number of operators that can be used in expressions, such as for arithmetic, comparing values, and logically combining conditions

Comparison operators

Comparison (or relational) operators compare two operands. They can be used with any input data types, and return a boolean result value.

The following comparison operators are supported:

<less than
<=less or equal
>greater than
>=greater or equal
INtest if a value is contained in an array
NOT INtest if a value is not contained in an array
LIKEtests if a string value matches a pattern
NOT LIKEtests if a string value does not match a pattern
=~tests if a string value matches a regular expression
!~tests if a string value does not match a regular expression

Each of the comparison operators returns a boolean value if the comparison can be evaluated and returns true if the comparison evaluates to true, and false otherwise.

The comparison operators accept any data types for the first and second operands. However, IN and NOT IN only return a meaningful result if their right-hand operand is an array. LIKE and NOT LIKE only execute if both operands are string values. All four operators do not perform implicit type casts if the compared operands have different types, i.e. they test for strict equality or inequality (0 is different to "0", [0], false and null for example).

     0  ==  null            // false
     1  >   0               // true
  true  !=  null            // true
    45  <=  "yikes!"        // true
    65  !=  "65"            // true
    65  ==  65              // true
  1.23  >   1.32            // false
   1.5  IN  [ 2, 3, 1.5 ]   // true
 "foo"  IN  null            // false
42  NOT IN  [ 17, 40, 50 ]  // true
 "abc"  ==  "abc"           // true
 "abc"  ==  "ABC"           // false
 "foo"  LIKE  "f%"          // true
 "foo"  NOT LIKE  "f%"      // false
 "foo"  =~  "^f[o].$"       // true
 "foo"  !~  "[a-z]+bar$"    // true

The LIKE operator checks whether its left operand matches the pattern specified in its right operand. The pattern can consist of regular characters and wildcards. The supported wildcards are _ to match a single arbitrary character, and % to match any number of arbitrary characters. Literal % and _ need to be escaped with a backslash. Backslashes need to be escaped themselves, which effectively means that two reverse solidus characters need to precede a literal percent sign or underscore. In arangosh, additional escaping is required, making it four backslashes in total preceding the to-be-escaped character.

    "abc" LIKE "a%"          // true
    "abc" LIKE "_bc"         // true
"a_b_foo" LIKE "a\\_b\\_foo" // true

The pattern matching performed by the LIKE operator is case-sensitive.

The NOT LIKE operator has the same characteristics as the LIKE operator but with the result negated. It is thus identical to NOT (… LIKE …). Note the parentheses, which are necessary for certain expressions:

FOR doc IN coll
  RETURN NOT doc.attr LIKE "…"

The return expression gets transformed into LIKE(!doc.attr, "…"), leading to unexpected results. NOT(doc.attr LIKE "…") gets transformed into the more reasonable ! LIKE(doc.attr, "…").

The regular expression operators =~ and !~ expect their left-hand operands to be strings, and their right-hand operands to be strings containing valid regular expressions as specified in the documentation for the AQL function REGEX_TEST().

Array comparison operators

Most comparison operators also exist as an array variant. In the array variant, a ==, !=, >, >=, <, <=, IN, or NOT IN operator is prefixed with an ALL, ANY, or NONE keyword. This changes the operator’s behavior to compare the individual array elements of the left-hand argument to the right-hand argument. Depending on the quantifying keyword, all, any, or none of these comparisons need to be satisfied to evaluate to true overall.

You can also combine one of the supported comparison operators with the special AT LEAST (<expression>) operator to require an arbitrary number of elements to satisfy the condition to evaluate to true. You can use a static number or calculate it dynamically using an expression.

[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ALL IN  [ 2, 3, 4 ]  // false
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ALL IN  [ 1, 2, 3 ]  // true
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  NONE IN  [ 3 ]       // false
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  NONE IN  [ 23, 42 ]  // true
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ANY IN  [ 4, 5, 6 ]  // false
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ANY IN  [ 1, 42 ]    // true
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ANY ==  2            // true
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ANY ==  4            // false
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ANY >  0             // true
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ANY <=  1            // true
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  NONE <  99           // false
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  NONE >  10           // true
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ALL >  2             // false
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ALL >  0             // true
[ 1, 2, 3 ]  ALL >=  3            // false
["foo", "bar"]  ALL !=  "moo"     // true
["foo", "bar"]  NONE ==  "bar"    // false
["foo", "bar"]  ANY ==  "foo"     // true

[ 1, 2, 3 ]  AT LEAST (2) IN  [ 2, 3, 4 ]  // true
["foo", "bar"]  AT LEAST (1+1) ==  "foo"   // false

Note that these operators do not utilize indexes in regular queries. The operators are also supported in SEARCH expressions, where ArangoSearch’s indexes can be utilized. The semantics differ however, see AQL SEARCH operation.

Logical operators

The following logical operators are supported in AQL:

  • && logical and operator
  • || logical or operator
  • ! logical not/negation operator

AQL also supports the following alternative forms for the logical operators:

  • AND logical and operator
  • OR logical or operator
  • NOT logical not/negation operator

The alternative forms are aliases and functionally equivalent to the regular operators.

The two-operand logical operators in AQL are executed with short-circuit evaluation (except if one of the operands is or includes a subquery. In this case the subquery is pulled out an evaluated before the logical operator).

The result of the logical operators in AQL is defined as follows:

  • lhs && rhs returns lhs if it is false or would be false when converted to a boolean. If lhs is true or would be true when converted to a boolean, rhs is returned.
  • lhs || rhs returns lhs if it is true or would be true when converted to a boolean. If lhs is false or would be false when converted to a boolean, rhs is returned.
  • ! value returns the negated value of value converted to a boolean
u.age > 15 && u.address.city != ""
true || false
NOT u.isInvalid
1 || ! 0

Passing non-boolean values to a logical operator is allowed. Any non-boolean operands are casted to boolean implicitly by the operator, without making the query abort.

The conversion to a boolean value works as follows:

  • null is converted to false
  • boolean values remain unchanged
  • all numbers unequal to zero are true, zero is false
  • an empty string is false, all other strings are true
  • arrays ([ ]) and objects / documents ({ }) are true, regardless of their contents

The result of logical and and logical or operations can now have any data type and is not necessarily a boolean value.

For example, the following logical operations return boolean values:

25 > 1  &&  42 != 7                        // true
22 IN [ 23, 42 ]  ||  23 NOT IN [ 22, 7 ]  // true
25 != 25                                   // false

… whereas the following logical operations do not return boolean values:

   1 || 7                                  // 1
null || "foo"                              // "foo"
null && true                               // null
true && 23                                 // 23

Arithmetic operators

Arithmetic operators perform an arithmetic operation on two numeric operands. The result of an arithmetic operation is again a numeric value.

AQL supports the following arithmetic operators:

  • + addition
  • - subtraction
  • * multiplication
  • / division
  • % modulus

Unary plus and unary minus are supported as well:

LET x = -5
LET y = 1
RETURN [-x, +y]
// [5, 1]

For exponentiation, there is a numeric function POW(). The syntax base ** exp is not supported.

For string concatenation, you must use the CONCAT() string function. Combining two strings with a plus operator ("foo" + "bar") does not work! Also see Common Errors.

1 + 1
33 - 99
12.4 * 4.5
13.0 / 0.1
23 % 7

The arithmetic operators accept operands of any type. Passing non-numeric values to an arithmetic operator casts the operands to numbers using the type casting rules applied by the TO_NUMBER() function:

  • null is converted to 0
  • false is converted to 0, true is converted to 1
  • a valid numeric value remains unchanged, but NaN and Infinity are converted to 0
  • string values are converted to a number if they contain a valid string representation of a number. Any whitespace at the start or the end of the string is ignored. Strings with any other contents are converted to the number 0
  • an empty array is converted to 0, an array with one member is converted to the numeric representation of its sole member. Arrays with more members are converted to the number 0.
  • objects / documents are converted to the number 0.

An arithmetic operation that produces an invalid value, such as 1 / 0 (division by zero), produces a result value of null. The query is not aborted, but you may see a warning.

   1 + "a"       // 1
   1 + "99"      // 100
   1 + null      // 1
null + 1         // 1
   3 + [ ]       // 3
  24 + [ 2 ]     // 26
  24 + [ 2, 4 ]  // 24
  25 - null      // 25
  17 - true      // 16
  23 * { }       // 0
   5 * [ 7 ]     // 35
  24 / "12"      // 2
   1 / 0         // null (with a 'division by zero' warning)

Ternary operator

AQL also supports a ternary operator that can be used for conditional evaluation. The ternary operator expects a boolean condition as its first operand, and it returns the result of the second operand if the condition evaluates to true, and the third operand otherwise.

In the following example, the expression returns u.userId if u.age is greater than 15 or if u.active is true. Otherwise it returns null:

u.age > 15 || u.active == true ? u.userId : null

There is also a shortcut variant of the ternary operator with just two operands. This variant can be used if the expression for the boolean condition and the return value should be the same.

In the following example, the expression evaluates to u.value if u.value is truthy. Otherwise, a fixed string is given back:

u.value ? : 'value is null, 0 or not present'

The condition (here just u.value) is only evaluated once if the second operand between ? and : is omitted, whereas it would be evaluated twice in case of u.value ? u.value : 'value is null'.

Subqueries that are used inside expressions are pulled out of these expressions and executed beforehand. That means that subqueries do not participate in lazy evaluation of operands, for example, in the ternary operator. Also see evaluation of subqueries.

Range operator

AQL supports expressing simple numeric ranges with the .. operator. This operator can be used to easily iterate over a sequence of numeric values.

The .. operator produces an array of the integer values in the defined range, with both bounding values included.


The above example produces the following result:

[ 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 ]

Using the range operator is equivalent to writing an array with the integer values in the range specified by the bounds of the range. If the bounds of the range operator are non-integers, they are converted to integer values first.

There is also a RANGE() function.

Array operators

AQL provides different array operators:

Array expansion

In order to access a named attribute from all elements in an array easily, AQL offers the shortcut operator [*] for array variable expansion.

Using the [*] operator with an array variable will iterate over all elements in the array, thus allowing to access a particular attribute of each element. It is required that the expanded variable is an array. The result of the [*] operator is again an array.

To demonstrate the array expansion operator, let’s go on with the following three example users documents:

    "name": "john",
    "age": 35,
    "friends": [
      { "name": "tina", "age": 43 },
      { "name": "helga", "age": 52 },
      { "name": "alfred", "age": 34 }
    "name": "yves",
    "age": 24,
    "friends": [
      { "name": "sergei", "age": 27 },
      { "name": "tiffany", "age": 25 }
    "name": "sandra",
    "age": 40,
    "friends": [
      { "name": "bob", "age": 32 },
      { "name": "elena", "age": 48 }

With the [*] operator it becomes easy to query just the names of the friends for each user:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: u.friends[*].name }

This will produce:

  { "name" : "john", "friends" : [ "tina", "helga", "alfred" ] },
  { "name" : "yves", "friends" : [ "sergei", "tiffany" ] },
  { "name" : "sandra", "friends" : [ "bob", "elena" ] }

This is a shortcut for the longer, semantically equivalent query:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: (FOR f IN u.friends RETURN f.name) }

Array contraction

In order to collapse (or flatten) results in nested arrays, AQL provides the [**] operator. It works similar to the [*] operator, but additionally collapses nested arrays.

How many levels are collapsed is determined by the amount of asterisk characters used. [**] collapses one level of nesting - just like FLATTEN(array) or FLATTEN(array, 1) would do -, [***] collapses two levels - the equivalent to FLATTEN(array, 2) - and so on.

Let’s compare the array expansion operator with an array contraction operator. For example, the following query produces an array of friend names per user:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN u.friends[*].name

As we have multiple users, the overall result is a nested array:


If the goal is to get rid of the nested array, we can apply the [**] operator on the result. But simply appending [**] to the query won’t help, because u.friends is not a nested (multi-dimensional) array, but a simple (one-dimensional) array. Still, the [**] can be used if it has access to a multi-dimensional nested result.

We can extend above query as follows and still create the same nested result:

  FOR u IN users RETURN u.friends[*].name

By now appending the [**] operator at the end of the query…

  FOR u IN users RETURN u.friends[*].name

… the query result becomes:


Note that the elements are not de-duplicated. For a flat array with only unique elements, a combination of UNIQUE() and FLATTEN() is advisable.

Inline expressions

It is possible to filter elements while iterating over an array, to limit the amount of returned elements and to create a projection using the current array element. Sorting is not supported by this shorthand form.

These inline expressions can follow array expansion and contraction operators [* ...], [** ...] etc. The keywords FILTER, LIMIT and RETURN must occur in this order if they are used in combination, and can only occur once:

anyArray[* FILTER conditions LIMIT skip,limit RETURN projection]

Example with nested numbers and array contraction:

LET arr = [ [ 1, 2 ], 3, [ 4, 5 ], 6 ]
RETURN arr[** FILTER CURRENT % 2 == 0]

All even numbers are returned in a flat array:

  [ 2, 4, 6 ]

Complex example with multiple conditions, limit and projection:

FOR u IN users
    RETURN {
        name: u.name,
        friends: u.friends[* FILTER CONTAINS(CURRENT.name, "a") AND CURRENT.age > 40
            LIMIT 2
            RETURN CONCAT(CURRENT.name, " is ", CURRENT.age)

No more than two computed strings based on friends with an a in their name and older than 40 years are returned per user:

    "name": "john",
    "friends": [
      "tina is 43",
      "helga is 52"
    "name": "sandra",
    "friends": [
      "elena is 48"
    "name": "yves",
    "friends": []

Inline filter

To return only the names of friends that have an age value higher than the user herself, an inline FILTER can be used:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: u.friends[* FILTER CURRENT.age > u.age].name }

The pseudo-variable CURRENT can be used to access the current array element. The FILTER condition can refer to CURRENT or any variables valid in the outer scope.

Inline limit

The number of elements returned can be restricted with LIMIT. It works the same as the limit operation. LIMIT must come after FILTER and before RETURN, if they are present.

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: u.friends[* LIMIT 1].name }

Above example returns one friend each:

  { "name": "john", "friends": [ "tina" ] },
  { "name": "sandra", "friends": [ "bob" ] },
  { "name": "yves", "friends": [ "sergei" ] }

A number of elements can also be skipped and up to n returned:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: u.friends[* LIMIT 1,2].name }

The example query skips the first friend and returns two friends at most per user:

  { "name": "john", "friends": [ "helga", "alfred" ] },
  { "name": "sandra", "friends": [ "elena" ] },
  { "name": "yves", "friends": [ "tiffany" ] }

Inline projection

To return a projection of the current element, use RETURN. If a FILTER is also present, RETURN must come later.

FOR u IN users
  RETURN u.friends[* RETURN CONCAT(CURRENT.name, " is a friend of ", u.name)]

The above will return:

    "tina is a friend of john",
    "helga is a friend of john",
    "alfred is a friend of john"
    "sergei is a friend of yves",
    "tiffany is a friend of yves"
    "bob is a friend of sandra",
    "elena is a friend of sandra"

Question mark operator

You can use the [? ... ] operator on arrays to check whether the elements fulfill certain criteria, and you can specify how often they should be satisfied. The operator is similar to an inline filter but with an additional length check and it evaluates to true or false.

The following example shows how to check whether two of numbers in the array are even:

LET arr = [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ]
RETURN arr[? 2 FILTER CURRENT % 2 == 0] // true

The number 2 after the ? is the quantifier. It is optional and defaults to ANY. The following quantifiers are supported:

  • Integer numbers for exact quantities (e.g. 2)
  • Number ranges for a quantity between the two values (e.g. 2..3)
  • NONE (equivalent to 0)
  • ANY
  • ALL

The quantifier needs to be followed by a FILTER operation if you want to specify conditions. You can refer to the current array element via the CURRENT pseudo-variable in the filter expression. If you leave out the quantifier and FILTER operation (only arr[?]), then arr is checked whether it is an array and if it has at least one element.

The question mark operator is a shorthand for an inline filter with a surrounding length check. The following table compares both variants:

Question mark operatorInline filter with length check
arr[? <number> FILTER <conditions>]LENGTH(arr[* FILTER <conditions>]) == <number>
arr[? <min>..<max> FILTER <conditions>]IN_RANGE(LENGTH(arr[* FILTER <conditions>]), <min>, <max>, true, true)
arr[? NONE FILTER <conditions>]LENGTH(arr[* FILTER <conditions>]) == 0
arr[? ANY FILTER <conditions>]LENGTH(arr[* FILTER <conditions>]) > 0
arr[? ALL FILTER <conditions>]LENGTH(arr[* FILTER <conditions>]) == LENGTH(arr)
arr[? AT LEAST (<number>) FILTER <conditions>]LENGTH(arr[* FILTER <conditions>]) >= <number>
arr[?]LENGTH(arr[*]) > 0

The question mark operator can be used for nested search (Enterprise Edition only):

Operator precedence

The operator precedence in AQL is similar as in other familiar languages (highest precedence first):

::scope (user-defined AQL functions)
[*]array expansion
[]indexed value access (of arrays)
.member access (of objects)
()function call
!, NOT, +, -unary not (logical negation), unary plus, unary minus
*, /, %multiplication, division, modulus
+, -addition, subtraction
..range operator
<, <=, >=, >less than, less equal, greater equal, greater than
IN, NOT INin operator, not in operator
==, !=, LIKE, NOT LIKE, =~, !~equality, inequality, wildcard match, wildcard non-match, regex match, regex non-match
AT LEASTat least modifier (array comparison operator, question mark operator)
OUTBOUND, INBOUND, ANY, ALL, NONEgraph traversal directions, array comparison operators, question mark operator
&&, ANDlogical and
INTOinto operator (INSERT / UPDATE / REPLACE / REMOVE / COLLECT operations)
WITHwith operator (WITH / UPDATE / REPLACE / COLLECT operations)
=variable assignment (LET / COLLECT operations, AGGREGATE / PRUNE clauses)
?, :ternary operator, object literals
DISTINCTdistinct modifier (RETURN operations)
,comma separator

The parentheses ( and ) can be used to enforce a different operator evaluation order.