Unlocking Speed: How to List Indexes for Your PostgreSQL Tables

postgresql indexing psql

Indexing in PostgreSQL

  • Indexes are special data structures that speed up data retrieval in PostgreSQL tables.
  • They work by organizing table data based on specific columns, allowing for faster searches compared to scanning the entire table.
  • When you query a table using a WHERE clause that references indexed columns, PostgreSQL can efficiently locate the relevant rows using the index.

Listing Indexes

PostgreSQL doesn't have a built-in command like SHOW INDEXES to directly list table indexes. However, you can achieve this in two ways:

  1. Using the pg_indexes View (SQL Query):

    • PostgreSQL provides a system view named pg_indexes that stores information about all indexes in the database.
    • You can query this view using SQL to retrieve details about indexes, including:
      • indexname: The name of the index.
      • tablename: The table to which the index belongs.
      • tablespace: The tablespace where the index is stored (if applicable).
      • indexdef: The definition of the index, which specifies the columns it's built on.

    Here's the SQL query to list indexes for a specific table named your_table_name:

    SELECT indexname, tablename, indexdef
    FROM pg_indexes
    WHERE tablename = 'your_table_name';
  2. Using the \d Command in psql:

    • psql is the command-line interface for interacting with PostgreSQL databases.
    • The \d command displays information about database objects.
    • To view a table's definition, including its indexes, use the following command:
    \d your_table_name

    The output will include a section for "Indexes," listing the index names and their column definitions.


Assuming you have a table named customers with an index on the last_name column:

Using SQL query:

SELECT indexname, tablename, indexdef
FROM pg_indexes
WHERE tablename = 'customers';

This might return output like:

  indexname  |  tablename  |                     indexdef                     
 idx_customers_last_name | customers | CREATE INDEX idx_customers_last_name ON customers(last_name);

Using psql:

\d customers

Part of the output might show:

    idx_customers_last_name btree (last_name)

Choosing the Method:

  • The SQL query approach is more flexible as you can filter results based on specific criteria (e.g., index name, tablespace).
  • The \d command in psql is convenient for a quick overview of a table's structure, including indexes.

I hope this comprehensive explanation clarifies how to list indexes in PostgreSQL!

Using SQL Query:

-- List all indexes for a specific table:
SELECT indexname, tablename, indexdef
FROM pg_indexes
WHERE tablename = 'your_table_name'
ORDER BY indexname;  -- Optional: Order results by index name

-- List indexes containing a specific column (replace 'column_name' with the actual column):
SELECT indexname, tablename, indexdef
FROM pg_indexes pi
JOIN pg_index_columns pic ON pi.indexrelid = pic.indexrelid
WHERE pic.columnname = 'column_name'
ORDER BY indexname;

Using \d command in psql:

-- List information about a table, including indexes:
\d your_table_name

-- Combine with `grep` to filter for indexes (optional):
\d your_table_name | grep index


  • The SQL query approach offers more control:
    • The first query lists all indexes for a specific table, optionally ordered by index name for better organization.
    • The second query retrieves indexes that include a particular column, allowing you to focus on specific columns for optimization purposes.
  • The psql command with \d provides a quick overview, and you can use grep (filtering command) to focus on the "Indexes" section, if desired.

Choose the method that best suits your needs based on the level of detail and filtering required.

  1. Using Information Schema Views:

    PostgreSQL provides information schema views that offer a standardized way to access metadata about database objects. While there's no direct view for indexes, you can combine these views to achieve similar results. Here's an example:

        pg_catalog.pg_get_indexdef(i.indexrelid) AS indexdef
    FROM pg_catalog.pg_index i
    JOIN pg_catalog.pg_class t ON t.oid = i.indexrelid
    WHERE t.relname = 'your_table_name'
    ORDER BY i.indexname;

    This query uses the pg_catalog.pg_index and pg_catalog.pg_class views to retrieve index and table information, then employs pg_catalog.pg_get_indexdef to obtain the index definition.

  2. Using pgAdmin (or other GUI tools):

    If you prefer a graphical user interface (GUI), consider using pgAdmin or a similar PostgreSQL administration tool. These tools typically allow you to browse database objects and their details, including indexes. You can usually view and explore indexes associated with a specific table through the GUI interface.


  • The pg_indexes view and \d command remain the most direct and efficient methods for listing indexes in PostgreSQL.
  • The information schema view approach offers a standardized way to access metadata but might be less straightforward.
  • GUI tools like pgAdmin provide a user-friendly interface but may not be as customizable or scriptable as SQL queries.

Choose the approach that best aligns with your workflow and preferences.

postgresql indexing psql

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