What is object-relation mapping (ORM, O/RM, and O/R mapping)?

Object-relational mapping in computer science is a programming technique for converting data between incompatible type systems in object-oriented programming languages. This creates, in effect, a “virtual object database” that can be used from within the programming language.

source: Wikipedia

What is GORM?

GORM is object-relation package for Go. It supports the following databases:


It is easy to install by invoking go get command:

$ go get -u github.com/jinzhu/gorm

Model declaration

Models in GORM are a simple Go structs that declare a set of public fields. Every model is representent as table and every field is column in this table.

In this blog we will define all models illustrated on the following diagram:

ORM Diagram

The actual representation of the diagram are three structs. Each of them has different fields that define a database column mapping via sql and gorm tags. In this examples, we will explore some of them.

type Company struct {
	ID        int        `sql:"AUTO_INCREMENT" gorm:"primary_key"`
	Name      string     `sql:"size:255;unique;index"`
	Employees []Employee // one-to-many relationship
	Address   Address    // one-to-one relationship

The Company struct has an auto incremental primary key defined by sql:"AUTO_INCREMENT" gorm:"primary_key".

Its string Name field should contain a value that is unique for all rows in the Company table. The column is indexed, which improves the performance on any queries that uses it in their where clause.

GORM automatically creates for the rest of the fields:

  • one-to-many relationship between Company and Employee
  • one to one relationship between Company and Address tables
type Employee struct {
	FirstName        string    `sql:"size:255;index:name_idx"`
	LastName         string    `sql:"size:255;index:name_idx"`
	SocialSecurityNo string    `sql:"type:varchar(100);unique" gorm:"column:ssn"`
	DateOfBirth      time.Time `sql:"DEFAULT:current_timestamp"`
	Address          *Address  // one-to-one relationship
	Deleted          bool      `sql:"DEFAULT:false"`

The Employee struct is defined in similar to way.

The FirstName and LastName field have maximum length 255. In additionl a name_idx index is created for both fields.

The SocialSecurityNo field is renamed to ssn column (by declaring gorm:"column:ssn tag) that has values that should be unique and do not exceed 100 characters.

The Employee struct has one-to-one relationship with the Address struct.

The fields DateOfBirth and Deleted has default values declared by sql:"DEFAULT:<default_value>" tag. For the DateOfBirth column we are using the postgres function current_timestamp to set the default value.

type Address struct {
	Country  string `gorm:"primary_key"`
	City     string `gorm:"primary_key"`
	PostCode string `gorm:"primary_key"`
	Line1    sql.NullString
	Line2    sql.NullString

The Address struct has a primary key that consists three fields Country, City and PostCode. In fact it has two columns Line1 and Line2 that are using sql.NullString type to allow null values.

In order to access your database you should open a new connection to it. In this article I am using PostgreSQL. Therefore, any thoughts will be related to PostgreSQL and relational databases.

You should install its driver for GO with the following command:

Establishing connection

$ go get "github.com/lib/pq"

The driver should be registered to make it available for GORM:

import _ "github.com/lib/pq"

Then we should establish the connection:

db, err := gorm.Open("postgres", "postgresql://myapp:dbpass@localhost:15432/myapp")
if err != nil {

// Ping function checks the database connectivity
err = db.DB().Ping()
if err != nil {

Creating tables

Every struct type is presented as a table in the underlying database. Respectively every property is represented as a column in the database table.

Lets create the declared models by invoking db.CreateTable function:


The function will create underlying tables if they do not exists. They have a schema based on the property definitions. A properties that contain int sql:"-"` tag are not emitted as a table columns.

By default the created table names are in plural. If you want to disable that you should use the following code snippet before any table create and table migrate task.


Migrating tables

If you want to change an existing table schema for your models, GORM provides a set of features. You could automatically use the AutoMigrate function to migrate the existing database schema to the new model changes.


Unfortunately, the migration adds only a new columns and new indexes, but does not alter existing columns and existing indexes.

If you want to do that you should use the functions provided by gorm.Model object.

  • ModifyColumn change columns type
  • DropColumn drops an existing column
  • AddIndex creates an index
  • AddUniqueIndex creates a unique index
  • RemoveIndex removes an existings index

Lets change the Name columns type of Company table to a text:

db.Model(&company.Company{}).ModifyColumn("name", "text")

Dropping tables

Tables could be dropped by using db.DropTable function:


The operation destroys the tables schema and all records.

Create, Update and Delete records

In this section we will explore the CRUD operations for this company:

sampleCompany := company.Company{
	Name: "Google",
	Address: company.Address{
		Country:  "USA",
		City:     "Moutain View",
		PostCode: "1600",
	Employees: []company.Employee{
			FirstName:        "John",
			LastName:         "Doe",
			SocialSecurityNo: "00-000-0000",

Lets create an new company by executing the db.Create function:

// It creates a single Company record and all associations (Address and Employees)

To delete the created company, you should use db.Delete function:


You could do a batch delete. In the following example we are deleting all companies that contains letter G in their name:

db.Where("Name LIKE ?", "%G%").Delete(company.Company{})

To update an existing record you should simple change its property and use db.Save command to persist the change:

model.Country = "USA"

For batch updates we should use simiplar to Delete operation approach, but this time we should use Updates function instead. Lets update all USA addresses:

db.Table("addresses").Where("Country = ?", "USA").Updates(map[string]interface{}{"Country": "North America"})

Query data records

GORM provides a very intuitive way to query your data. It brings all power of underlying database by providing the following functions:

var firstComp company.Company

// fetch a company by primary key
db.First(&firstComp, 1)

// fetch a company by name
db.Find(&firstComp, "name = ?", "Google")

// fetch all companies
var comapnies []company.Company

// fetch all companies that starts with G
db.Where("name = ?", "%G%").Find(&companies)

I cannot manage to cover in a single post. You can read more about them in the official documentation.


GORM is great object relation mapping package that unifies the access to different data base. The provides all query capabilities that we are familiar with in SQL like languages. I would like to see a code generation package that generates a models from existing data base.