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Name Validation Using Oracle Regular Expression Syntax

Oracle Database Tips by Burleson Consulting

October 22, 2015

Question:  I have an application where I need to ensure that my end-users don't use special characters in the name columns for the full name of a person. 

How can I validate the format of a name in Oracle?

Answer:  To validate first name and last name fields from an Oracle application (APEX or SQL*Forms) the regular expression regexp_like can be used to ensure that the name follows the proper pattern.  In general, English surnames are all alphanumeric, with a dash allowed for hyphenated names.

For American names you want to validate:  

  • That the name is at least two characters long.  There was a famous case of a Vietnamese man with a one-letter last name who was forced to change his name to two characters to accommodate the validation routine of a motor vehicle database validation.
  •  That the name contains alpha characters plus a single, optional dash (hyphenated names)
  •  That the name does not start with a hyphen 

The regular expression syntax in PL/SQL might look like this, using the regexp_like function:  

If not regexp_like (input_first_name, '^[a-zA-Z–]+$') then  . . .  

Or in PL/SQL you can declare the regex string:

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
DECLARE
    v_name  varchar2(20) := '^[a-zA-Z–]+$' --- Only alpha, space and dashes

BEGIN
   If not regexp_like(last_name,v_name)  
then
     dbms.output.put_line('Invalid surname');  . . .
END

You can also use regular expressions to validate names at data entry time within your application, ensuring that only valid name characters are entered:

if
    not regexp_like (first_name, '^[a-zA-Z .''-]+$')
or
    not regexp_like (middle_name, '^[a-zA-Z .''-]+$')
or
    not regexp_like (last_name, '^[a-zA-Z .''-]+$')
then
    dbms_output.put_line('Invalid characters in names.  Please re-enter');

 

 
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Note: This Oracle documentation was created as a support and Oracle training reference for use by our DBA performance tuning consulting professionals.  Feel free to ask questions on our Oracle forum.

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