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regexp_replace tips

Oracle PL/SQL tips by Boobal Ganesan

This is an excerpt from the book Advanced PL/SQL: The Definitive Reference by Boobal Ganesan.

Syntax:  regexp_replace( source, pattern, replace string, position, occurrence, options)

The source can be a string literal, variable, or column.  The pattern is the expression to be replaced.  The replace string is the text that will replace the matching patterns.  The optional position defines the location to begin searching the source string.  This defaults to 1.  The optional occurrence defines the occurrence of the pattern that you want replaced.  This defaults to 0 (all occurrences).  Setting this to a positive number will result in only that occurrence being replaced.  The matching options are the same.

  regexp_replace('We are driving south by south east',
                 'south', 'north')
from dual;

Oracle 10g introduced regular expression functions in SQL with the functions REGEXP_SUBSTR, REGEXP_REPLACE, REGEXP_INSTR and REGEXP_LIKE.


---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
SMITH                          4 SMITH               0
JONES                          0 JONES               0
SCOTT                          4 SCOTT               0

ADAMS      DAM                 0 AD@S                2
JAMES                          0 J@ES                1

REPLACE replaces all occurrence of a string. REGEXP_REPLACE has the same behavior by default, but when the fifth parameter, OCCURRENCE, is set to a value greater than zero, the substitution is not global.

      '\2: \1',

Oracle: Advanced SQL Programming

This function is a successful extension of both the REPLACE and the TRANSLATE function. This function was introduced in the Oracle version 10g, which replaces a specific portion of the source string using a user customized regular expression based search pattern.


The prototype for the REGEXP_REPLACE function is shown below,


REGEXP_REPLACE(<Source_string>, <Search_pattern>[, <Replacement_string>[, <Start_position>[, <Match_occurrence>[, <Match_modifiers>]]]])


·         Source_string: The string to be searched for.


·         Search_pattern: The regular expression pattern that is to be searched for in the source string. This can be a combination of the POSIX and the Perl-influenced metacharacters mentioned in the above section.


·         Replacement_string: This is an optional parameter. The matched patterns will be replaced with the Replacement_string in the source string. If not mentioned, the replacement string will be Null.


·         Start_position: This is an optional parameter. This determines the position in the source string where the search starts. By default, it is 1, which is the starting position of the source string.


·         Match_occurrence: This is an optional parameter. This determines the occurrence of the search pattern. By default, it is 1, which is the first appearance of the search pattern in the string.


·         Match_modifiers: This is an optional parameter. This parameter allows us to modify, the matching behavior of the function. The valid range of options is mentioned in the Pattern Matching Modifiers section explained above.

String Removal

The below statement has a mix of numbers, alphabets and punctuations in its source string. The first match pattern selects all the alphabets, the second match pattern selects all the digits and the third match pattern selects all the punctuations, removes them from the source string respectively, and prints the result.



  t AS

  ( SELECT'a0b1c2d3e4f5g6h7i8j9k!l@m#n$o%p^q&r*s(t)u_v+w-x=y[z]' col FROM dual)


  regexp_replace(col,'[[:alpha:]]') without_alphabets,

  regexp_replace(col,'[[:digit:]]') without_digits,

  regexp_replace(col,'[[:punct:]]') without_punctuations














Symbol Removal

The below snippet removes all the special symbols from the source string and prints only the readable characters. This query is of much help while saving the emails and documents into the database by removing the unreadable special symbols as a data cleaning process.


select regexp_replace('Th∞is St☻ring con♥tains ♫special sy▀mbols','[^a-zA-Z ]') regexp_replace from dual;



This String contains special symbols

Space Removal

The below statement removes the spaces which are present more than once in the source string. This script plays a vital role in removing the unwanted spaces from a document or an email before storing them permanently in the database.


select regexp_replace('This    string  contains       more    than  one    spacing       between     the        words','( ){2,}',' ') regexp_replace from dual;



This string contains more than one spacing between the words

Name Rearrange

The below listing re-arranges the last name and the first name from the source string in a user required format for reporting purposes.


select regexp_replace('Randy Orton','(.*) (.*)','\2, \1') regexp_replace from dual;



Orton, Randy

Space Addition

The below SQL adds an extra space in between each character from the source string as shown below,


select regexp_replace('abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz','(.)','\1 ') regexp_replace from dual;



a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Security Measure

The below statement hides the middle portion of a number as a security measure. This process is done by the banking industry during the account-related communication by hiding the middle portion of the credit card, account number, phone number and by the email servers for OTP generation for user confirmation and security check.


select regexp_replace('91105434563452345623', '(^[[:digit:]]{4})(.*)([[:digit:]]{4}$)', '\1**********\3') regexp_replace from dual;





Need to learn to program with PL/SQL?  For complete notes on programming in PL/SQL, we recommend the book Advanced PL/SQL: The Definitive Reference by Boobal Ganesan.

This is a complete book on PL/SQL with everything you need to know to write efficient and complex PL/SQL code.

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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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