sqlfluff accepts configuration either through the command line or through configuration files. There is rough parity between the two approaches with the exception that templating configuration must be done via a file, because it otherwise gets slightly complicated.

For details of what’s available on the command line check out the CLI Reference.

For file based configuration sqlfluff will look for the following files in order. Later files will (if found) will be used to overwrite any vales read from earlier files.

  • setup.cfg

  • tox.ini

  • pep8.ini

  • .sqlfluff

Within these files, they will be read like an cfg file, and sqlfluff will look for sections which start with sqlfluff, and where subsections are delimited by a semicolon. For example the jinjacontext section will be indicated in the section started with [sqlfluff:jinjacontext].


Sqlfluff uses nesting in it’s configuration files, with files closer overriding (or patching, if you will) values from other files. That means you’ll end up with a final config which will be a patchwork of all the values from the config files loaded up to that path. You don’t need any config files to be present to make sqlfluff work. If you do want to override any values though sqlfluff will use files in the following locations in order, with values from later steps overriding those from earlier:

  1. […and this one doesn’t really count] There’s a default config as part of the sqlfluff package. You can find this below, in the .sqlfluffignore section.

  2. It will look in the user’s home directory (~), for any of the filenames above in the main Configuration section. If multiple are present, they will patch/override eachother in the order above.

  3. It will look for the same files in the current working directory.

  4. [if parsing a file in a subdirectory of the current working directory] It will look for the same files in every subdirectory between the current working dir and the file directory.

  5. It will look for the same files in the directory containing the file being linted.

This whole structure leads to efficient configuration, in particular in projects which utilise a lot of complicated templating.

Templating Configuration

When thinking about templating there are two different kinds of things that a user might want to fill into a templated file, variables and functions/macros. Currently functions aren’t implemented in any of the templaters.

Variable Templating

Variables are available in the jinja and python templaters. By default the templating engine will expect variables for templating to be available in the config, and the templater will be look in the section corresponding to the context for that templater. By convention, the config for the jinja templater is found in the sqlfluff:templater:jinja:context section and the config for the python templater is found in the sqlfluff:templater:python:context section.

For example, if passed the following .sql file:

SELECT {{ num_things }} FROM {{ tbl_name }} WHERE id > 10 LIMIT 5

…and the following configuration in .sqlfluff in the same directory:


…then before parsing, the sql will be transformed to:

SELECT 456 FROM my_table WHERE id > 10 LIMIT 5


If there are variables in the template which cannot be found in the current configuration context, then this will raise a SQLTemplatingError and this will appear as a violation without a line number, quoting the name of the variable that couldn’t be found.

Complex Variable Templating

Two more advanced features of variable templating are case sensitivity and native python types. Both are illustrated in the following example:

my_list=['a', 'b', 'c']
MY_LIST=("d", "e", "f")
    {% for elem in MY_LIST %}
        '{{elem}}' {% if not loop.last %}||{% endif %}
    {% endfor %} as concatenated_list
FROM tbl

…will render as…

    'd' || 'e' || 'f' as concatenated_list
FROM tbl

Note that the variable was replaced in a case sensitive way and that the settings in the config file were interpreted as native python types.

Macro Templating

Macros (which also look and feel like functions are available only in the jinja templater. Similar to Variable Templating, these are specified in config files, what’s different in this case is how they are named. Similar to the context section above, macros are configured seperately in the macros section of the config. Consider the following example.

If passed the following .sql file:

SELECT {{ my_macro(6) }} FROM some_table

…and the following configuration in .sqlfluff in the same directory (note the tight control of whitespace):

a_macro_def = {% macro my_macro(something) %}{{something}} + {{something * 2}}{% endmacro %}

…then before parsing, the sql will be transformed to:

SELECT 6 + 12 FROM some_table

Note that in the code block above, the variable name in the config is a_macro_def, and this isn’t apparently otherwise used anywhere else. Broadly this is accurate, however within the configuration loader this will still be used to overwrite previous values in other config files. As such this introduces the idea of config blocks which could be selectively overwritten by other configuration files downsteam as required. Some such blocks are provided by default as Builtin Macro Blocks to assist with common use cases.

In addition to macros specified in the config file, macros can also be loaded from a file or folder (this particularly useful for dbt users, who may already have a macros folder in their project). The path to this macros folder must be specified in the config file to function as below:


In this case, sqlfluff will load macros from any .sql file found at the path specified on this variable. The path is interpreted relative to the config file, and therefore if the config file above was found at /home/my_project/.sqlfluff then sqlfluff will look for macros in the folder /home/my_project/my_macros/. Alternatively the path can also be a .sql itself.


Throughout the templating process whitespace will still be treated rigourously, and this includes newlines. In particular you may choose to provide your dummy macros in your configuration with different to the actual macros you may be using in production.

REMEMBER: The purpose of providing the option of macros is to enable the parsing of templated sql without it being a blocker. It shouldn’t be a requirement that the templating is accurate - only so far as that is required to enable the parsing and linting to be helpful.

Builtin Macro Blocks

One of the main use cases which inspired sqlfluff as a a project was dbt. It uses jinja templating extensively and leads to some users maintaining large repositories of sql files which could potentially benefit from some linting.

Sqlfluff anticipates this use case and provides some built in macro blocks in the Default Configuration which assist in getting started with dbt projects. In particular it provides mock objects for:

  • ref: The mock version of this provided simply returns the model reference as the name of the table. In most cases this is sufficient.

  • config: A regularly used macro in dbt to set configuration values. For linting purposes, this makes no difference and so the provided macro simply returns nothing.


If there are other builtin macros which would make your life easier, consider submitting the idea (or even better a pull request) on github.


Similar to Git’s .gitignore and Docker’s .dockerignore, sqlfluff supports a .sqfluffignore file to control which files are and aren’t linted. Under the hood we use the python pathspec library which also has a brief tutorial in their documentation.

An example of a potential .sqfluffignore placed in the root of your project would be:

# Comments start with a hash.

# Ignore anything in the "temp" path

# Ignore anything called "testing.sql"

# Ignore any ".tsql" files

Ignore files can also be placed in subdirectories of a path which is being linted and the sub files will also be applied within that subdirectory.

Default Configuration

The default configuration is as follows, note the Builtin Macro Blocks in section [sqlfulff:templater:jinja:macros] as referred to above.

verbose = 0
nocolor = False
dialect = ansi
templater = jinja
rules = None
exclude_rules = None
recurse = 0
output_line_length = 80

indented_joins = False

apply_dbt_builtins = True

# Macros provided as builtins for dbt projects
dbt_ref = {% macro ref(model_ref) %}{{model_ref}}{% endmacro %}
dbt_source = {% macro source(source_name, table) %}{{source_name}}_{{table}}{% endmacro %}
dbt_config = {% macro config() %}{% for k in kwargs %}{% endfor %}{% endmacro %}
dbt_var = {% macro var(variable) %}item{% endmacro %}

# Some rules can be configured directly from the config common to other rules.
tab_space_size = 4
max_line_length = 80
indent_unit = space

# Some rules have their own specific config.
capitalisation_policy = consistent

comma_style = trailing