icu_ext 1.2.0

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Extension to expose functionality from the ICU (Unicode) library
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icu_ext 1.2.0
Extension to expose functionality from the ICU (Unicode) library


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An extension to expose functionality from ICU to PostgreSQL applications.

It requires PostgreSQL version 10 or newer, configured with ICU (--with-icu).

Note: this text is in GitHub Flavored Markdown format. Please see the version on github if it's rendered weirdly elsewhere.


The Makefile uses the PGXS infrastructure to find include and library files and determine the install location.
Build and install with:

$ make
$ (sudo) make install


Quick links (in alphabetical order)


These functions work in both Unicode and non-Unicode databases.


Returns the version of the ICU library linked with the server.


Returns the version of the Unicode standard used by the ICU library linked with the server.


Returns a table-type list of available ICU locales with their main properties (country code and name, language code and name, script, direction). When translations are available, the country and language names are localized with the default ICU locale, configurable with icu_set_default_locale(). Set it to en to force english names.


  =# SELECT * FROM icu_locales_list() where name like 'es%' limit 5;
    name  |    country    | country_code | language | language_code | script | direction 
   es     |               |              | Spanish  | spa           |        | LTR
   es_419 | Latin America |              | Spanish  | spa           |        | LTR
   es_AR  | Argentina     | ARG          | Spanish  | spa           |        | LTR
   es_BO  | Bolivia       | BOL          | Spanish  | spa           |        | LTR
   es_CL  | Chile         | CHL          | Spanish  | spa           |        | LTR

 =# SELECT name,country FROM icu_locales_list() where script='Simplified Han';
     name    |       country       
  zh_Hans    | 
  zh_Hans_CN | China
  zh_Hans_HK | Hong Kong SAR China
  zh_Hans_MO | Macau SAR China
  zh_Hans_SG | Singapore

This list is obtained independently from the collations declared to PostgreSQL (found in pg_collation).

icu_collation_attributes(collator text [, exclude_defaults bool])

Lists the attributes, version and display name of an ICU collation, returned as a set of (attribute,value) tuples. The collator argument must designate an ICU collator and accepts several different syntaxes. In particular, a locale ID or (if ICU>=54) a language tag may be used. Note that this argument is not a reference to a PostgreSQL collation, and that this function does not depend on whether a corresponding collation has been instantiated in the database with CREATE COLLATION. To query the properties of an already created PostgreSQL ICU collation, refer to pg_collation.collcollate (which corresponds to the lc_collate argument of CREATE COLLATION).

 =# SELECT a.attribute,a.value FROM pg_collation
      JOIN LATERAL icu_collation_attributes(collcollate) a
      ON (collname='fr-CA-x-icu');

   attribute  |       value
  displayname | français (Canada)
  kn          | false
  kb          | true
  kk          | false
  ka          | noignore
  ks          | level3
  kf          | false
  kc          | false
  version     | 153.80.33

icu_collation_attributes() is useful to check that the settings embedded into a collation name activate the intended options, because ICU parses them in a way that non-conformant parts tend to be silently ignored, and because the interpretation somewhat depends on the ICU version (in particular, pre-54 versions do not support options expressed as BCP-47 tags). It may be also useful to search existing collations by their properties. When exclude_defaults is set to true, attributes that have their default value are filtered out, to put in evidence the specifics of collations. For instance, to find the only collations that use shifted for the Alternate attribute:

 =# SELECT collname,collcollate,a.attribute,a.value FROM pg_collation
     JOIN LATERAL icu_collation_attributes(collcollate,true) a
     ON (attribute='ka') ;

   collname   | collcollate | attribute |  value  
  th-x-icu    | th          | ka        | shifted
  th-TH-x-icu | th-TH       | ka        | shifted
 (2 rows)

By default there is no filtering (exclude_defaults = false) so that all attributes known by the function as well as the collation version number are reported.

Example of checking a collation without any reference to pg_collation:

 =# SELECT * FROM icu_collation_attributes('fr-u-ks-level2-kn');
   attribute |  value   
  kn        | true
  kb        | false
  kk        | false
  ka        | noignore
  ks        | level2
  kf        | false
  kc        | false
  version   | 153.64

icu_collation_attributes() will error out if ICU is unable to open a collator with the given argument.

icu_sort_key(string text, collator text)

Returns the binary sort key (type: bytea) corresponding to the string with the given collation. See

collator is an ICU BCP-47 tag that is independent from the collations instantiated in PostgreSQL.

Binary sort keys may be useful to circumvent the core PostgreSQL limitation that two strings that differ in their byte representation are not considered equal (see for instance this thread in the pgsql-bugs mailing-list for a discussion of this problem in relation with the ICU integration).

You may order or rank by binary sort keys, or materialize them in a unique index to achieve at the SQL level what cannot be done internally by PostgreSQL for case-insensitive or accent-insensitive collations.

The function is declared IMMUTABLE to be usable in indexes, but be aware that it's only true as far as the version of the locale associated with the collation doesn't change. (Typically it changes between major ICU versions). In short, consider rebuilding the affected indexes on ICU upgrades.

To simply compare pairs of strings, consider icu_compare() instead.

Example demonstrating a case-sensitive, accent-sensitive unique index:

=# CREATE TABLE uniq(name text);

=# CREATE UNIQUE INDEX idx ON uniq((icu_sort_key(name, 'fr-u-ks-level1')));

=# INSERT INTO uniq values('été');

=# INSERT INTO uniq values('Ête');
ERROR:  duplicate key value violates unique constraint "idx"
DETAIL:  Key (icu_sort_key(name, 'fr-u-ks-level1'::text))=(\x314f31) already exists.

=# insert into uniq values('Êtes');

icu_compare(string1 text, string2 text, collator text)

Compare two strings with the given collation. Return the result as a signed integer, similarly to strcoll(), that is, the result is negative if string1 < string2, zero if string = string2, and positive if string1 > string2.

collator is an ICU BCP-47 tag that is independent from the collations instantiated in PostgreSQL.

Example: case-sensitive, accent-insensitive comparison:

=# SELECT icu_compare('abcé','abce','en-u-ks-level1-kc-true');

=# SELECT icu_compare('Abcé','abce','en-u-ks-level1-kc-true');

icu_set_default_locale(locale text)

Sets the default ICU locale for the session, and returns a canonicalized version of the locale name. The POSIX syntax (lang[_country[@attr]]) is accepted. Call this function to change the output language of icu_locales_list().
This setting should not have any effect on PostgreSQL core functions, at least as of PG version 10.

Warning: passing bogus contents to this function may freeze the backend with older versions of ICU (seen with 52.1).


Returns the name of the default ICU locale as a text. The initial value is automatically set by ICU from the environment.

icu_character_boundaries(string text, locale text)

Break down the string into its characters and return them as a set of text. This is comparable to calling regexp_split_to_table with an empty regexp, with some differences, for instance: - CRLF sequences do not get split into two characters. - Sequences with a base and a combining character are kept together.

Example (the "e" followed by the combining acute accent U+0301 may be rendered as an accented e or differently depending on your browser):

=# SELECT * FROM icu_character_boundaries('Ete'||E'\u0301', 'fr') as chars;

See Boundary Analysis in the ICU User Guide for more information.

icu_word_boundaries (string text, locale text)

Break down the string into words and non-words constituents, and return them in a set of (tag, contents) tuples. tag has values from the UWordBreak enum defined in ubrk.h indicating the nature of the piece of contents. The current values are:

UBRK_WORD_NONE           = 0,
UBRK_WORD_NUMBER         = 100,
UBRK_WORD_LETTER         = 200,
UBRK_WORD_KANA           = 300,
UBRK_WORD_IDEO           = 400,  /* up to 500 */

(strictly speaking, any number between the lower and the upper bounds may be counted, as these numbers are meant to be intervals inside which new subdivisions may be added in future versions of ICU).


=# SELECT * FROM icu_word_boundaries($$I like O'Reilly books, like the japanese 初めてのPerl 第7版.$$ , 'en');
 tag | contents 
 200 | I
   0 |  
 200 | like
   0 |  
 200 | O'Reilly
   0 |  
 200 | books
   0 | ,
   0 |  
 200 | like
   0 |  
 200 | the
   0 |  
 200 | japanese
   0 |  
 400 | 初めて
 400 | の
 200 | Perl
   0 |  
 400 | 第
 100 | 7
 400 | 版
   0 | .

or to count words in english:

 =# SELECT count(*) FROM icu_words_boundaries($$piece of text$$, 'en_US')
    WHERE tag=200;

icu_line_boundaries (string text, locale text)

Split the string into pieces where a line break may occur, according to the Unicode line breaking algorithm defined in UAX #14, and return them in a set of (tag, contents) tuples. tag has values from the ULineBreakTag enum defined in ubrk.h indicating the nature of the break. The current values are:

UBRK_LINE_SOFT      = 0,
UBRK_LINE_HARD      = 100,  /* up to 200 */

(strictly speaking, any number between the lower and the upper bounds may be counted, as these numbers are meant to be intervals inside which new subdivisions may be added in future versions of ICU).


=#  SELECT *,convert_to( contents, 'utf-8') from icu_line_boundaries(
$$Thus much let me avow--You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,$$
, 'en');

 tag | contents |    convert_to    
 100 |         +| \x0a
     |          | 
   0 | Thus     | \x5468757320
   0 | much     | \x6d75636820
   0 | let      | \x6c657420
   0 | me       | \x6d6520
 100 | avow--  +| \x61766f772d2d0a
     |          | 
   0 | You      | \x596f7520
   0 | are      | \x61726520
   0 | not      | \x6e6f7420
   0 | wrong,   | \x77726f6e672c20
   0 | who      | \x77686f20
 100 | deem    +| \x6465656d0a
     |          | 
   0 | That     | \x5468617420
   0 | my       | \x6d7920
   0 | days     | \x6461797320
   0 | have     | \x6861766520
   0 | been     | \x6265656e20
   0 | a        | \x6120
 100 | dream;  +| \x647265616d3b0a
     |          | 
   0 | Yet      | \x59657420
   0 | if       | \x696620
   0 | hope     | \x686f706520
   0 | has      | \x68617320
   0 | flown    | \x666c6f776e20
 100 | away    +| \x617761790a
     |          | 
   0 | In       | \x496e20
   0 | a        | \x6120
   0 | night,   | \x6e696768742c20
   0 | or       | \x6f7220
   0 | in       | \x696e20
   0 | a        | \x6120
   0 | day,     | \x6461792c

icu_sentence_boundaries (string text, locale text)

Split the string into sentences, according the Unicode text segmentation rules defined in UAX #29, and return them in a set of (tag, contents) tuples. tag has values from the USentenceBreakTag enum defined in ubrk.h indicating the nature of the break. The current values are:

UBRK_SENTENCE_SEP   = 100, /* up to 200 */

(strictly speaking, any number between the lower and the upper bounds may be counted, as these numbers are meant to be intervals inside which new subdivisions may be added in future versions of ICU).


=# SELECT * FROM icu_sentence_boundaries('Mr. Barry Sheene was born in 1950. He was a motorcycle racer.',
 tag |              contents               
   0 | Mr. Barry Sheene was born in 1950. 
   0 | He was a motorcycle racer.

Note: "Mr." followed by a space is recognized by virtue of the locale as an abbreviation of the english "Mister", rather than the end of a sentence.

icu_number_spellout (number double precision, locale text)

Return the spelled out text corresponding to the number expressed in the given locale.


=# SELECT loc, icu_number_spellout(1234, loc)
    FROM (values ('en'),('fr'),('de'),('ru'),('ja')) AS s(loc);

  loc |            icu_number_spellout
  en  | one thousand two hundred thirty-four
  fr  | mille deux cent trente-quatre
  de  | ein­tausend­zwei­hundert­vier­und­dreißig
  ru  | одна тысяча двести тридцать четыре
  ja  | 千二百三十四

(Note: the german output uses U+00AD (SOFT HYPHEN) to separate words. Github's markdown to HTML conversion seems to remove them, so in the above text the spellout might appear like a single long word.)

icu_char_name(c character)

Return the Unicode character name corresponding to the first codepoint of the input.


=# SELECT c, to_hex(ascii(c)), icu_char_name(c)
   FROM regexp_split_to_table('El Niño', '') as c;

  c | to_hex |          icu_char_name
  l | 6c     | LATIN SMALL LETTER L
    | 20     | SPACE
  i | 69     | LATIN SMALL LETTER I
  o | 6f     | LATIN SMALL LETTER O

icu_spoof_check (string text)

Return a boolean indicating whether the argument is likely to be an attempt at confusing a reader. The implementation is based on Unicode Technical Reports #36 and #39 and uses the ICU default settings for spoof checks.


=# SELECT txt, icu_spoof_check(txt) FROM (VALUES ('paypal'), (E'p\u0430ypal')) AS s(txt);
  txt   | icu_spoof_check
 paypal | f
 pаypal | t

(Note: The second character in the second row is U+0430 (CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER A) instead of the genuine ASCII U+0061 (LATIN SMALL LETTER A))

icu_confusable_strings_check(string1 text, string2 text)

Return a boolean indicating whether the string arguments are visually confusable with each other, according to data described in Unicode Technical Report #39. The settings and comparison levels are ICU defaults. For strictly identical strings, it returns true.


=# SELECT txt, icu_confusable_strings_check('phil', txt) AS confusable
    FROM (VALUES ('phiL'), ('phiI'), ('phi1'), (E'ph\u0131l')) AS s(txt);

 txt  | confusable
 phiL | f
 phiI | t
 phi1 | t
 phıl | t

icu_transform (string text, transformations text)

Return a string with some transformations applied. This function essentially calls ICU's utrans_transUChars().

The first argument is the string to transform, and the second is the transformation to apply, expressed as a sequence of transforms and filters (see the ICU user guide on transforms and the output of icu_transforms_list() mentioned below).



=# select icu_transform('Владимир Путин', 'Cyrl-Latn'); -- just 'Latin' would work here too
 Vladimir Putin

Transform Unicode names into the corresponding characters:

=# select icu_transform('10\N{SUPERSCRIPT MINUS}\N{SUPERSCRIPT FOUR}'
           '\N{MICRO SIGN}m = 1 \N{ANGSTROM SIGN}',
 10⁻⁴µm = 1 Å

Remove diacritics (generalized "unaccent") through Unicode decomposition.

 =# select icu_transform('1 Å', 'any-NFD; [:nonspacing mark:] any-remove; any-NFC');

 1 A

Generate hexadecimal codepoints for non-ASCII characters:

=# select icu_transform('Ich muß essen.', '[:^ascii:]; Hex');
 Ich mu\u00DF essen.

icu_transforms_list ()

Return the list of built-in transliterations or transforms, as a set of text, corresponding to "Basic IDs" in ICU documentation. The initial set of transforms are transliterations between scripts (like Katakana-Latin or Latin-Cyrillic), but they're supplemented with functionalities related to accents, casing, Unicode composition and decomposition with combining characters and other conversions.

Values from this list are meant to be used individually as the 2nd argument of icu_transform(), or assembled with semi-colon separators to form compound transforms, possibly with filters added to limit the set of characters to transform.


This project is licensed under the PostgreSQL License -- see