Chapter 15. Cypher Query Language

Table of Contents

15.1. Compatibility
15.2. Parameters
15.3. Identifiers
15.4. Start
15.5. Match
15.6. Where
15.7. Return
15.8. Aggregation
15.9. Order by
15.10. Skip
15.11. Limit
15.12. Functions

A new query language, code-named “Cypher”, has been added to Neo4j. It allows for expressive and efficient querying of the graph store without having to write traversers in code. Cypher is still growing and maturing, and that means that there probably will be breaking syntax changes. It also means that it has not undergone the same rigorous performance testing as the other components.

Cypher is designed to be a humane query language, suitable for both developers and (importantly, we think) operations professionals who want to make ad-hoc queries on the database. Its constructs are based on English prose and neat iconography, which helps to make it (somewhat) self-explanatory.

Cypher is inspired by a number of different approaches and builds upon established practices for expressive querying. Most of the keywords like WHERE and ORDER BY are inspired by SQL. Pattern matching borrows expression approaches from SPARQL. Regular expression matching is implemented using the Scala programming language.

Cypher is a declarative language. It focuses on the clarity of expressing what to retrieve from a graph, not how to do it, in contrast to imperative languages like Java, and scripting languages like Gremlin (supported via the Section 18.16, “Gremlin Plugin”) and the JRuby Neo4j bindings. This makes the concern of how to optimize queries in implementation detail not exposed to the user.

The query language is comprised of several distinct parts.

Let’s see three of them in action:

Imagine an example graph like

Figure 15.1. Example Graph

For example, here is a query which finds a user called John in an index and then traverses the graph looking for friends of Johns friends (though not his direct friends) before returning both John and any friends-of-friends that are found.

START john=node:node_auto_index(name = 'John')
MATCH john-[:friend]->()-[:friend]->fof
RETURN john, fof

Resulting in

2 rows, 2 ms





Next up we will add filtering to set all four parts in motion:

In this next example, we take a list of users (by node ID) and traverse the graph looking for those other users that have an outgoing friend relationship, returning only those followed users who have a name property starting with S.

START user=node(5,4,1,2,3)
MATCH user-[:friend]->follower
WHERE =~ /S.*/
RETURN user,

Resulting in
2 rows, 2 ms





To use Cypher from Java, see Section 4.8, “Cypher Queries”.