LIKE is an SQL operator for performing string comparisons with pattern matching in (relational) databases. Example:

SELECT nickname, firstname, lastname FROM example WHERE firstname LIKE 'Jo%'

The statement above will return all rows where the string in the field firstname begins with Jo.

The syntax is <expression> LIKE <pattern>. <expression> is the value to be compared with the <pattern>. Here are some rules for the pattern matching:

  • Any normal characters in pattern must match exactly, case sensitively.
  • % (percent) matches any sequence of zero ore more characters. For example, the pattern 'a%c' matches 'abbc' and 'ac' but not 'bbc'.
  • _ (underscore) matches exactly one character. For example, the pattern 'a_c' matches 'abc' and 'a0c' but not 'abcd'.
  • If the expression is NULL, then no pattern will match it, not even %.

There are additional characters that can be used in the pattern on some database servers. Those listed above should work on almost any server, for example Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server.

Maybe somewhat of a rant, but I need to get it off my chest. "Like" is the most over used, annoying term in the English language. I think the term has almost slipped into the sub conscientious minds and people seem to drop the word into sentences without even realizing it or what they sound like.

To illustrate my point, let me offer up the following. Since I live in what can be considered a college town and frequently rely on mass transportation to get back and forth to work, I often have the pleasure of riding the bus with students who are commuting back and forth from campus. (I don’t mean to imply that only students are guilty of the abuse this fine word, it’s just that they are the ones I’m exposed to the most.) Now, I don’t make it a habit to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations but sometimes given the proximity of folks next to you, it just can’t be helped. What I hear often astounds me. The following might be a little over the top in terms of the usage of this word and these folks were obviously not majoring in public speaking but, I gotta tell ya, it’s pretty darn close

Student 1 :” I was like, going to go to class yesterday but like, I forgot my like, books, so I like, had to go back and like, get them , but then I like, got like, hungry ya know, so I went to get something to eat but like, I was almost out of money so I figured like, maybe I’d just be better off eating at like, home, but then like, I had no like, decent food in the house and had to settle for like, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some like, luke warm milk.”

Student 2: Dude, that is so like, weird, same kinda thing happened to me like, the other day, but I like, borrowed like, ten bucks off my like, roommate, and went to like, Burger King and loaded up on like, burgers and fries but then I still had like, enough time to make it to class but it was like, so boring, that I like, dozed through most of it which like, sorta sucks because I gotta write like, this paper that’s due like, next week, and I don’t like, know when I’m gonna be able to pay my like, roommate back.

I also noticed that as I was writing this, it got very hard to follow but during the so-called “conversation” that I described, I hardly took notice. If you don’t believe it, try to transcribe a conversation verbatim and see how many times the word comes up and how hard it is to keep track of. I don’t know, maybe the eye picks up on all of the words while the ear has grown accustomed to tuning certain ones out. I find it like, fascinating.

Contrary to Borgo's writup, like, as used outside the bounds of Webster's definition, is not just verbal garbage, meaninglessness tossed lazily into the middle of a sentance. Most teenagers could have told you this for the past decade or so, but for skeptics there's now a formal linguistic study on the subject -- an important study because linguists had previously assumed that filler-esque words conveyed no meaning, or, to put it more formally, that they did not change the meaning of a sentance.

Specifically, like acts on meaning in 3 important ways:

She's like five foot five.
She's five foot five.
In the first example, the speaker is indicating a general range of heights, centered on 5'5"; in the second, they're specifying a particular, exact height. In this case, like is synonymous with about.
She's like ten feet tall.
She's ten feet tall.
In the first example, the speaker is using hyperbole; the woman in question, though tall, is (assumedly) not actually ten feet tall. In the second, she is.
She was like, I don't see why that's necessary.
She was, I don't see why that's necessary.
In the first example, the speaker is quoting someone else. The second example, without the like, is mostly nonsensical. (Like is not exactly analogous to said here -- someone could say, "She was like" and then do that hand-snapping-across-face motion, or could paraphrase something said (perhaps in such a way as to comment on it). In both instances, the usage can be thought of as somewhat literal: what is being described is, in a way, what someone is like.)

This is an oversimplification, of course; like is in many ways a general-purpose meaning-softener, subtly altering connotations in a way that is difficult to deconstruct, and it can be used in innumerable situations (to cause oneself to appear less forward, for example). Borgo's transcribed exchange provides a few examples, but in general it's not a great guide; it looks like he's adding like where it's unlikely to actually have been said: e.g. "maybe I'd just be better off eating at like, home." I won't dispute that the word can be overused, but to dismiss any nonstandard use of it as annoying or useless is incorrect.

I read some general-media articles on the study a few weeks ago but I can't actually find any of them; search engine technology is such that typing "like" into one, in conjuction with whatever else, won't turn up anything useful. At least, not for me. Feel free to Msg if you find something yourself (or if you think I've left out one of like's neatly catagorizable uses).

Sometimes "like" really is meaningless

In response to Tlogmer's point: its true that there are many, emerging uses of 'like' that are not meaningless, such as "inspecifity" (Tlogmer probably meant "in-specificity"), hyperbole, and quotation. The Oxford English Dictionary documents all these and more; there 6 different entries for "like", and the entry dealing with Tlogmer's point contains an astounding total of 58 different meanings and sub-meanings! In spite of all these possible meanings, the OED finds it impossible to deny that sometimes, "like" is used "Also, colloq. (orig. U.S.), as a meaningless interjection or expletive.". Nor is this a recent phenomenon. Examples go back as far as "1840-41 DE QUINCEY Style II. Wks. 1862 X. 224 ‘Why like, it's gaily nigh like to four mile like’" and include "1973 Black Panther 17 Nov. 9/4 What will be the contradictions that produce further change? Like, it seems to me that it would be virtually impossible to avoid some contradictions."


"like, a., adv. (conj.), and n.2 ", Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 19 Oct. 2002. <>

"Like" is a button on Facebook that indicates approval or interest in someone's status, picture/video or comment on the above. Clicking "Like" displays your name as a person who "Likes" this. Other than that, I am not sure what effect it has, although I suspect that Facebook has some type of algorithm where posts that get more "Likes" and comments are displayed to more people, leading to more likes and comments, and so on.

As a mechanism, "Like" isn't particularly bad, and is not particularly good. One of biggest problems with "Like" is that it can mean either approval or interest. Since "Liking" something on Facebook is a polite thing to do to items of interest or import, I sometimes see people liking statuses such as

"My grandfather is in the hospital with pneumonia. It looks serious."
It is for this reason that Google Plus has called its similar mechanism "+1", which merely states that an item is of interest, without the approval of "Like".

The other problem of the "Like" button is that it is a way to enter a conversation without saying anything. In general, conversations on Facebook are superficial and transitory, and the "Like" button doesn't add to dialogue. I have found myself wanting to reply with "Like" in other places instead of coming up with an actual response. It is somewhat akin to the infamous "me too" of the AOL era.

However, not much should be read into the "Like" button, although I have to admit that when a photo or post of mine crosses the 10 like threshold, I become proud.

Like (lIk), a. [Compar. Liker (lIk"ər); superl. Likest.] [OE. lik, ilik, gelic, AS. gelIc, fr. pref. ge- + lIc body, and orig. meaning, having the same body, shape, or appearance, and hence, like; akin to OS. gilIk, D. gelijk, G. gleich, OHG. gilIh, Icel. lIkr, glIkr, Dan. lig, Sw. lik, Goth. galeiks, OS. lik body, D. lijk, G. leiche, Icel. lIk, Sw. lik, Goth. leik. The English adverbial ending-ly is from the same adjective. Cf. Each, Such, Which.]


Having the same, or nearly the same, appearance, qualities, or characteristics; resembling; similar to; similar; alike; -- often with in and the particulars of the resemblance; as, they are like each other in features, complexion, and many traits of character.

'T is as like you
As cherry is to cherry.

Like master, like man.
Old Prov.

He giveth snow like wool; he scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes.
Ps. cxlvii. 16.

To, which formerly often followed like, is now usually omitted.


Equal, or nearly equal; as, fields of like extent.

More clergymen were impoverished by the late war than ever in the like space before.


Having probability; affording probability; probable; likely. [Likely is more used now.] Shak.

But it is like the jolly world about us will scoff at the paradox of these practices.

Many were not easy to be governed, nor like to conform themselves to strict rules.


Inclined toward; disposed to; as, to feel like taking a walk.

Had like (followed by the infinitive), had nearly; came little short of.

Had like to have been my utter overthrow.
Sir W. Raleigh

Ramona had like to have said the literal truth, . . . but recollected herself in time.
Mrs. H. H. Jackson.

Like figures (Geom.), similar figures.

Like is used as a suffix, converting nouns into adjectives expressing resemblance to the noun; as, manlike, like a man; childlike, like a child; godlike, like a god, etc. Such compounds are readily formed whenever convenient, and several, as crescentlike, serpentlike, hairlike, etc., are used in this book, although, in some cases, not entered in the vocabulary. Such combinations as bell-like, ball- like, etc., are hyphened.


© Webster 1913

Like, n.


That which is equal or similar to another; the counterpart; an exact resemblance; a copy.

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.


A liking; a preference; inclination; -- usually in pl.; as, we all have likes and dislikes.


© Webster 1913

Like, adv. [AS. gelIce. See Like, a.]


In a manner like that of; in a manner similar to; as, do not act like him.

He maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.
Job xii. 25.

Like, as here used, is regarded by some grammarians as a preposition.


In a like or similar manner. Shak.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
Ps. ciii. 13.


Likely; probably. "Like enough it will." Shak.


© Webster 1913

Like, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Liked (lIkt); p. pr. & vb. n. Liking.] [OE. liken to please, AS. lIcian, gelIcian, fr. gelIc. See Like, a.]


To suit; to please; to be agreeable to. [Obs.]

Cornwall him liked best, therefore he chose there.
R. of Gloucester.

I willingly confess that it likes me much better when I find virtue in a fair lodging than when I am bound to seek it in an ill-favored creature.
Sir P. Sidney.


To be pleased with in a moderate degree; to approve; to take satisfaction in; to enjoy.

He proceeded from looking to liking, and from liking to loving.
Sir P. Sidney.


To liken; to compare.[Obs.]

Like me to the peasant boys of France.


© Webster 1913

Like (lIk), v. i.


To be pleased; to choose.

He may either go or stay, as he best likes.


To have an appearance or expression; to look; to seem to be (in a specified condition). [Obs.]

You like well, and bear your years very well.


To come near; to avoid with difficulty; to escape narrowly; as, he liked to have been too late. Cf. Had like, under Like, a. [Colloq.]

He probably got his death, as he liked to have done two years ago, by viewing the troops for the expedition from the wall of Kensington Garden.

To like of, to be pleased with. [Obs.] Massinger.


© Webster 1913

Like, n. (Golf)

The stroke which equalizes the number of strokes played by the opposing player or side; as, to play the like.


© Webster 1913

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