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What are Attributes in DBMS and Its Types?

25th May, 2024
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    What are Attributes in DBMS and Its Types?

    When we talk about database management systems, the first thing that comes to mind is how to store and retrieve data efficiently and efficiently. In order to perform these operations, we need entities and attributes. Attributes are the pieces of information that are stored in a database.

    There are several different types of attributes, each with its own distinct purpose. In this blog, we will be discussing the concept of attributes and different types of attributes in DBMS with detailed examples. For a deeper understanding of databases, you can consider taking up MongoDB Certification training, which will help you gain more insight into this topic. Till then, let us first start with the definition of an attribute.

    What are Attributes in DBMS?

    In a database management system (DBMS), an attribute is a piece of data that describes an entity. For example, in a customer database, the attributes might be name, address, and phone number. In a product database, the attributes might be name, price, and date of manufacture. Each attribute has a specific data type, such as string, integer, or date.

    Attributes can be used to describe both simple and complex entities. A product, for example, might be described by a single attribute such as name or price. However, it can also be described by multiple attributes such as name, price, and date of manufacture. In addition, some attributes might be used to describe other attributes. For example, an attribute called "color" might describe a product's color.

    Types of Attributes in DBMS

    Let's understand the different types of attributes in DBMS, along with their examples. In DBMS, the different types of attributes available are: 

    1. Simple Attributes
    2. Composite Attributes
    3. Single Valued Attributes
    4. Multivalued Attributes
    5. Derived Attributes
    6. Complex Attributes
    7. Key Attributes
    8. Stored Attributes

    types of attributes

    1. Simple Attributes

    Simple attributes are those that cannot be further divided into sub-attributes.

    For example, A student's roll number of a student or the employee identification number. These attributes are usually assigned by an organization and are used to identify an individual within that organization uniquely. Databases and other systems often use simple attributes to track and manage information.

    Simple attribute example

    2. Composite Attributes

    Composite attributes are made up of two or more simple attributes. For example, a person's address may be a composite attribute that is made up of the person's street address, city, state, and zip code. Composite attributes can be used to create more complex data models and can be helpful when trying to represent data in a concise way.

    Composite attribute example

    3. Single Valued Attributes

    Single-valued attributes can only have one value. For example, a person's Social Security Number is a single-valued attribute. Social Security Numbers are used to uniquely identify individuals in the United States and are, therefore, single-valued attributes.

    Examples of single-valued attributes include employee numbers, customer numbers, and product codes. Single-valued attributes are typically used to provide a unique identifier for an entity and are often used in databases.

    Single valued attribute example

    4. Multivalued Attributes

    Multivalued attributes can have more than one value. For example, a person may have multiple email addresses or phone numbers. Multivalued attributes in DBMS are often used to store information about relationships between entities. For instance, an employee entity might have a multivalued attribute called "dependents" that stores the names of the employee's dependents. Multivalued attributes can also be used to represent hierarchical data.

    5. Derived Attributes

    Derived attributes are based on other attributes and are not stored directly in the database.

    For example: Consider a database of employees. Each employee has a date of birth, and we might want to calculate their age. However, age is a derived attribute because it can be determined from the date of birth. As such, it would not make sense to store it directly in the database. Here is an example diagram of a derived attribute in DBMS:

    derived attribute example

    6. Complex Attributes

    The complex attribute in DBMS involves both multivalued and composite attributes. For example, someone might have more than one house, and each house might have more than one phone. The phone is then considered a complex attribute.

    In the example above, the phone number is a composite attribute of the area code, exchange, and line number. Complex attributes are often used in database design to represent relationships between entities. Here is a complex attribute example explained in the form of a diagram.

    Complex attribute

    7. Key Attributes

    DBMS's key attributes are used to uniquely identify each row in a table. Usually, there is more than one key attribute in a table (primary key and foreign key).

    For example: In a table of employees, the employee ID would be the primary key, while the manager ID would be the foreign key.

    key attributes example

    8. Stored Attributes

    In a DBMS, stored attributes are the data that remain constant and fixed for an entity instance. These values help in deriving the derived attributes.

    For example: consider a customer entity in a bank. The customer's name, age, and address would be stored attributes. The customer's account balance (a derived attribute) could be calculated based on the transactions (another stored attribute) associated with the customer.

    So, these are the different attribute types in DBMS and their importance. We believe, by now, you must be intrigued to learn more about the most wanted database in the world. If yes, do consider a MongoDB Administrative Course keywords to get access to 100+ courses and experience 24 hours of instructor training.

    Stored attribute example


    Explain the closure of attributes in DBMS

    An attribute X's closure is the set of all attributes that depend on X in relation to F. X+ represents what X can determine.


    Algorithm to compute X+

    • Step 1 − X+ =X 
    • Step 2 − repeat until X+ does not change 
    • For each FD Y->Z in F 
    • If Y ⊆ X+ then X+ = X+ U Z 


    Consider a relation R(A,B,C,D,E,F) 


    Find the closure of E or E+


    The closure of E or E+ is as follows − 

      E+ = E 
    =EA   {for E->A add A} 
    =EAD  {for E->D add D} 
    =EADC {for A->C add C} 
    =EADC {for A->D D already added} 
    =EADCF{for AE->F add F} 
    =EADCF{for AG->K don’t add k AG ⊄ D+)

    Why do we need to Use Attributes?

    Attributes are important because they help to describe the entities in a database. They also help to distinguish one entity from another. An attribute in the DBMS example is, if two customers have the same name, we can use their address attribute to identify them. Similarly, if two products have the same name, we can use their price or manufacturer attributes to identify them.

    Attributes also play an important role in making databases searchable. For example, if we want to find all customers who live in a particular zip code, we can use the customer's address attribute to search for them. Or if we want to find all products that cost less than $10, we can use the product's price attribute to search for them.

    In short, attributes are important in DBMS because they help define the data structure in a database. Without attributes, it would be difficult to organize and query data meaningfully. Attributes also help to ensure data accuracy by providing clear definitions for the data being entered into a database.

    Difference Between Simple and Composite Attributes in DBMS

    Simple and composite are two types of attributes in database management systems.

    A simple attribute cannot be further broken down into sub-parts. A composite attribute, on the other hand, is made up of two or simpler attributes. For example, a customer's address might be a composite attribute that consists of the street number, city, state, and zip code.

    Composite attributes can themselves be made up of other composite attributes, as in the case of a customer's address, which could be composed of a zip code, streets, etc. However, they can also make data entry and retrieval more complex, as all of the component attributes must be considered when performing these operations.

    When defining a database, it is important to understand the difference between simple and composite attributes, as this will affect how the data is structured.


    Attributes are an important part of any database model. In this blog, we looked at the different types of attributes in DBMS and how they can be used in a database system. We also looked at some examples to help you understand the concepts related to entities and attributes in DBMS better.

    If you are looking for more information on MongoDB or want to learn how to use it effectively, consider signing up for the KnowledgeHut's MongoDB Certification training course. You can learn the art of queries, schema design, CRUD, and data aggregation under the guidance of professionals. The teachers will guide you to write code and build real-world projects along with other related concepts. 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What is the purpose of attributes in DBMS?

    In a database management system (DBMS), an attribute is a database component, for instance, a table. Attributes are used to provide structure and organization within a database, and they can be used to identify and retrieve specific records. 

    2How can database entities and attributes be different?

    In a database, an entity type relates to one or more related tables. The attribute is a trait of an entity type describing the entity. For example, the class "Person" would be an entity type, while "Date of Birth" would be an attribute. Entity types tend to correspond to one or more related tables in a database, while attributes typically describe a single aspect of an entity type.

    3How is a multivalued attribute in ER diagram?

    An ER diagram represents a multivalued attribute by a double oval. This type of attribute can take on more than one value, which means that it can be used to represent repeating data. For example, a person may have multiple addresses or phone numbers.

    4How do we represent derived attributes in ER diagram?

    One way to represent derived attributes in an Entity Relationship (ER) diagram is to include a dashed line from the attribute back to the entity from which it is derived. To sum up, derived attributes are those that can be calculated from other attributes. 


    Abhresh Sugandhi


    Abhresh is specialized as a corporate trainer, He has a decade of experience in technical training blended with virtual webinars and instructor-led session created courses, tutorials, and articles for organizations. He is also the founder of Nikasio.com, which offers multiple services in technical training, project consulting, content development, etc.

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