What Is Boolean Language?

By Kate Bruscke

Boolean language is based on a logic system used extensively in computers and database design. It is based on the algebra work done by mathematician George Boole in the 1850s. Instead of illustrating algebraic principles with integers, Boole discussed rules concerning how one evaluates the logical values of data, or how these values relate propositions to observable truth.

George Boole

George Boole was born in 1815 in Lincolnshire, England. His two major mathematical works included Treatise on Differential Equations and Treatise on the Calculus of Finite Differences. He is best known for work completed later in his life and published in 1854's An Investigation of the Laws of Thought on Which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities. This volume included his work on logic, which he considered a subset of elementary algebra. It is this premise upon which Boolean language, named in his honor, is based.

Binary States

Boolean language is based on a binary system. It considers only two states, "true" and "false," or any related opposites -- such as "yes" and "no" or "on" and "off" -- which can be mathematically represented by 0 and 1. In a binary state, it does not matter which state is assigned as 1 or 0, as long as each represents the other's opposite.

Computer Systems

Because of its binary state, Boolean language is used as the basis for modern computer and database systems, which are, themselves, binary in how they process information through their circuitry. Programmers and designers use Boolean language to design hardware circuits and algorithms, as well as apply the underlying principles to help store data in a logical fashion in a database.

Example: Searching

Boolean language can help you effectively locate information in a database, such as those you find at a library or on the Internet, by applying Boolean logic to the keywords to enter. For example, if you want to find information about kittens, you could enter the search term "kittens." However, if you wanted information about orange kittens, you would use the Boolean operator (word) "AND" to find information that contains the keywords "orange" and "kittens." If you wanted information about all kittens except orange kittens, you could use the Boolean operation "NOT" which will find all information that contains kittens but not the keyword "orange." The third most common Boolean operator is "OR." This could be used -- by typing "kitten OR orange" -- if you wanted information that contained either the keyword "kitten" or "orange," but not necessarily both.