How to fix MySQL database ERROR 1054: Unknown column

When you execute a MySQL statement, you may sometimes encounter ERROR 1054 as shown below:

mysql> SELECT user_name FROM users;
ERROR 1054 (42S22): Unknown column 'user_name' in 'field list'

The ERROR 1054 in MySQL occurs because MySQL can’t find the column or field you specified in your statement.

This error can happen when you execute any valid MySQL statements like a SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, or ALTER TABLE statement.

This tutorial will help you fix the error by adjusting your SQL statements.

Let’s start with the SELECT statement.

Fix ERROR 1054 on a SELECT statement

To fix the error in your SELECT statement, you need to make sure that the column(s) you specified in your SQL statement actually exists in your database table.

Because the error above says that user_name column is unknown, let’s check the users table and see if the column exists or not.

To help you check the table in question, you can use the DESCRIBE or EXPLAIN statement to show your table information.

The example below shows the output of EXPLAIN statement for the users table:

mysql> EXPLAIN users;
| Field        | Type        | Null | Key | Default | Extra |
| username     | varchar(25) | NO   |     |         |       |
| display_name | varchar(50) | NO   |     |         |       |
| age          | int         | YES  |     | NULL    |       |
| comments     | text        | YES  |     | NULL    |       |

From the result above, you can see that the users table has no user_name field (column)

Instead, it has the username column without the underscore.

Knowing this, I can adjust my previous SQL query to fix the error:

SELECT username FROM users;

That should fix the error and your SQL query should show the result set.

Fix ERROR 1054 on an INSERT statement

When you specify column names in an INSERT statement, then the error can be triggered on an INSERT statement because of a wrong column name, just like in the SELECT statement.

First, you need to check that you have the right column names in your statement.

Once you are sure, the next step is to look at the VALUES() you specified in the statement.

For example, when I ran the following statement, I triggered the 1054 error:

mysql> INSERT INTO users(username, display_name) 
    ->   VALUES ("jackolantern", Jack);
ERROR 1054 (42S22): Unknown column 'Jack' in 'field list'

The column names above are correct, and the error itself comes from the last entry in the VALUES() function.

The display_name column is of VARCHAR type, so MySQL expects you to insert a VARCHAR value into the column.

But Jack is not a VARCHAR value because it’s not enclosed in a quotation mark. MySQL considers the value to be a column name.

To fix the error above, simply add a quotation mark around the value. You can use both single quotes or double quotes as shown below:

INSERT INTO users(username, display_name) 
  VALUES ("jackolantern", 'Jack');

Now the INSERT statement should run without any error.

Fix ERROR 1054 on an UPDATE statement

To fix the 1054 error caused by an UPDATE statement, you need to look into the SET and WHERE clauses of your statement and make sure that the column names are all correct.

You can look at the error message that MySQL gave you to identify where the error is happening.

For example, the following SQL statement:

UPDATE users
SET username = "jackfrost", display_name = "Jack Frost"
WHERE user_name = "jackolantern";

Produces the following error:

ERROR 1054 (42S22): Unknown column 'user_name' in 'where clause'

The error clearly points toward the user_name column in the WHERE clause, so you only need to change that.

If the error points toward the field_list as shown below:

ERROR 1054 (42S22): Unknown column 'displayname' in 'field list'

Then you need to check on the SET statement and make sure that:

  • You have the right column names
  • Any string type values are enclosed in a quotation mark

You can also check on the table name that you specified in the UPDATE statement and make sure that you’re operating on the right table.

Next, let’s look at how to fix the error on an ALTER TABLE statement

Fix ERROR 1054 on an ALTER TABLE statement

The error 1054 can also happen on an ALTER TABLE statement.

For example, the following statement tries to rename the displayname column to realname:

  RENAME COLUMN displayname TO realname;

Because there’s no displayname column name in the table, MySQL will respond with the ERROR 1054 message.


In short, ERROR 1054 means that MySQL can’t find the column name that you specified in your SQL statements.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an INSERT, SELECT, or UPDATE statement.

There are only two things you need to check to fix the error:

  • Make sure you’ve specified the right column name in your statement
  • Make sure that any value of string type in your statement is surrounded by a quotation mark

You can check on your table structure using the DESCRIBE or EXPLAIN statement to help you match the column name and type with your statement.

And that’s how you fix the MySQL ERROR 1054 caused by your SQL statements.

I hope this tutorial has been useful for you 🙏

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