validates_uniqueness_of(*attr_names) public

Validates whether the value of the specified attributes are unique across the system. Useful for making sure that only one user can be named "davidhh".

  class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
    validates_uniqueness_of :user_name, :scope => :account_id

It can also validate whether the value of the specified attributes are unique based on multiple scope parameters. For example, making sure that a teacher can only be on the schedule once per semester for a particular class.

  class TeacherSchedule < ActiveRecord::Base
    validates_uniqueness_of :teacher_id, :scope => [:semester_id, :class_id]

When the record is created, a check is performed to make sure that no record exists in the database with the given value for the specified attribute (that maps to a column). When the record is updated, the same check is made but disregarding the record itself.

Configuration options:

  • message - Specifies a custom error message (default is: "has already been taken")
  • scope - One or more columns by which to limit the scope of the uniquness constraint.
  • case_sensitive - Looks for an exact match. Ignored by non-text columns (true by default).
  • allow_nil - If set to true, skips this validation if the attribute is null (default is: false)
  • if - Specifies a method, proc or string to call to determine if the validation should

occur (e.g. :if => :allow_validation, or :if => Proc.new { |user| user.signup_step > 2 }). The method, proc or string should return or evaluate to a true or false value.

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October 24, 2008
9 thanks

Back it up with a unique index

As mentioned briefly above, as well as using this validation in your model you should ensure the underlying database table also has a unique index to avoid a race condition.

For example:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  validates_uniqueness_of :login_name

The index can be specified in the migration for the User model using add_index like this:

add_index :users, :login_name, :unique => true

You do a similar thing when using the :scope option:

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  validates_uniqueness_of :user_name, :scope => :account_id

Should have a migration like this:

add_index :people, [ :account_id, :user_name ], :unique => true

Note that both the attribute being validated (:user_name) and the attribute(s) used in the :scope (:account_id) must be part of the index.

For a clear and concise explanation of the potential for a race condition see Hongli Lai’s blog.

April 20, 2010
2 thanks

Does not work with polymorphic relations

If you have polymorphic relations, e.g.:

class Bookmark < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :thing, :polymorphic => true
  belongs_to :owner, :polymorphic => true

and you want to ensure that a thing can bookmarked by an owner at most once, you can’t do this:

validates_uniqueness_of :thing, :scope => :owner

Instead, you must use the real column names, e.g.:

validates_uniqueness_of :thing_id, :scope => [:thing_type, :owner_id, :owner_type]
June 3, 2009 - (<= v2.3.2)
0 thanks

multi scope to sql

validates_uniqueness_of :name, :scope => [:big_category_id, :small_category_id]

SELECT * FROM schedules WHERE (products.name = 'xxxx' AND products.big_category_id= 1 AND products.small_category_id = 1) LIMIT 1
December 6, 2013
0 thanks

Migration for uniqueness with existent data in DB

I’m using sub-transaction to update existent records on DB. I use this approach to update the uniqueness field when it value dependent on another existent field without uniqueness restriction.

Migration for uniqueness with existent dependent data in DB

class AddUniquenessBarToFoo < ActiveRecord::Migration
  class Foo < ActiveRecord::Base

  def change

    add_column :foos, :bar, :string
    execute "ALTER TABLE foos ADD CONSTRAINT uk_foods_bar UNIQUE (bar)"    

    Foo.all.each do |f|
        #try get unique value in a new sub-transaction
        Foo.transaction(requires_new: true) do
          f.update_attributes!(:bar => "some ops. with another non-unique existent field to set this")
      rescue ActiveRecord::StatementInvalid
         #We can't reuse a crashed transaction. New one.
         Foo.transaction(requires_new: true) do
          #Alternative unique value, if another error exist it's another
          #migration problem and then raise new error.
          f.update_attributes!(:bar => "some operation to set this-#{f.id}")
    change_column :foos, :bar, :string, :null => false


Be aware about performance that is transaction per record for big DB.