Second normal form

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Second normal form (2NF) is a normal form used in database normalization. 2NF was originally defined by E.F. Codd in 1971.[1]

A table that is in first normal form (1NF) must meet additional criteria if it is to qualify for second normal form. Specifically: a table is in 2NF if it is in 1NF and no non-prime attribute is dependent on any proper subset of any candidate key of the table. A non-prime attribute of a table is an attribute that is not a part of any candidate key of the table.

Put simply, a table is in 2NF if it is in 1NF and every non-prime attribute of the table is dependent on the whole of every candidate key.

2NF and candidate keys[edit]

A functional dependency on part of any candidate key is a violation of 2NF. In addition to the primary key, the table may contain other candidate keys; it is necessary to establish that no non-prime attributes have part-key dependencies on any of these candidate keys.

Multiple candidate keys occur in the following table:

Electric Toothbrush Models
Manufacturer Model Model Full Name Manufacturer Country
Forte X-Prime Forte X-Prime Italy
Forte Ultraclean Forte Ultraclean Italy
Dent-o-Fresh EZbrush Dent-o-Fresh EZbrush USA
Kobayashi ST-60 Kobayashi ST-60 Japan
Hoch Toothmaster Hoch Toothmaster Germany
Hoch X-Prime Hoch X-Prime Germany

Even if the designer has specified the primary key as {Model Full Name}, the table is not in 2NF. {Manufacturer, Model} is also a candidate key, and Manufacturer Country is dependent on a proper subset of it: Manufacturer. To make the design conform to 2NF, it is necessary to have two tables:

Electric Toothbrush Manufacturers
Manufacturer Manufacturer Country
Forte Italy
Dent-o-Fresh USA
Kobayashi Japan
Hoch Germany
Electric Toothbrush Models
Manufacturer Model Model Full Name
Forte X-Prime Forte X-Prime
Forte Ultraclean Forte Ultraclean
Dent-o-Fresh EZbrush Dent-o-Fresh EZbrush
Kobayashi ST-60 Kobayashi ST-60
Hoch Toothmaster Hoch Toothmaster
Hoch X-Prime Hoch X-Prime

See also[edit]

For other normal forms, see the navigation bar at the bottom of the page.


  1. ^ Codd, E.F. "Further Normalization of the Data Base Relational Model." (Presented at Courant Computer Science Symposia Series 6, "Data Base Systems," New York City, May 24th-25th, 1971.) IBM Research Report RJ909 (August 31st, 1971). Republished in Randall J. Rustin (ed.), Data Base Systems: Courant Computer Science Symposia Series 6. Prentice-Hall, 1972.

Further reading[edit]

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