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Model versions, dbt_project.yml versions, and .yml versions

Take note that model versions are different from dbt_project.yml versions and .yml property file versions.

Model versions is a feature that enables better governance and data model management by allowing you to track changes and updates to models over time. dbt_project.yml versions refer to the compatibility of the dbt project with a specific version of dbt. Version numbers within .yml property files inform how dbt parses those YAML files. The latter two are completely optional starting from dbt v1.5.

version: 2

- name: model_name
- v: <version_identifier> # required
defined_in: <file_name> # optional -- default is <model_name>_v<v>
# specify all columns, or include/exclude columns from the top-level model YAML definition
- include: <include_value>
exclude: <exclude_list>
# specify additional columns
- name: <column_name> # required
- v: ...

# optional
latest_version: <version_identifier>

The standard convention for naming model versions is <model_name>_v<v>. This holds for the file where dbt expects to find the model's definition (SQL or Python), and the alias it will use by default when materializing the model in the database.


The version identifier for a version of a model. This value can be numeric (integer or float), or any string.

The value of the version identifier is used to order versions of a model relative to one another. If a versioned model does not explicitly configure a latest_version, the highest version number is used as the latest version to resolve ref calls to the model without a version argument.

In general, we recommend that you use a simple "major versioning" scheme for your models: 1, 2, 3, and so on, where each version reflects a breaking change from previous versions. You are able to use other versioning schemes. dbt will sort your version identifiers alphabetically if the values are not all numeric. You should not include the letter v in the version identifier, as dbt will do that for you.

To run a model with multiple versions, you can use the --select flag. Refer to Model versions for more information and syntax.


The name of the model file (excluding the file extension, e.g. .sql or .py) where the model version is defined.

If defined_in is not specified, dbt searches for the definition of a versioned model in a model file named <model_name>_v<v>. The latest version of a model may also be defined in a file named <model_name>, without the version suffix. Model file names must be globally unique, even when defining versioned implementations of a model with a different name.


The default resolved alias for a versioned model is <model_name>_v<v>. The logic for this is encoded in the generate_alias_name macro.

This default can be overwritten in two ways:

  • Configuring a custom alias within the version yaml, or the versioned model's definition
  • Overwriting dbt's generate_alias_name macro, to use different behavior based on node.version

See "Custom aliases" for more details.

Note that the value of defined_in and the alias configuration of a model are not coordinated, except by convention. The two are declared and determined independently.

Our recommendations

  • Follow a consistent naming convention for model versions and aliases.
  • Use defined_in and alias only if you have good reason.
  • Create a view that always points to the latest version of your model. You can automate this for all versioned models in your project with an on-run-end hook. For more details, read the full docs on "Model versions"

Detecting breaking changes

When you use the state:modified selection method in Slim CI, dbt will detect changes to versioned model contracts, and raise an error if any of those changes could be breaking for downstream consumers.

Breaking changes include:

  • Removing an existing column
  • Changing the data_type of an existing column
  • Removing or modifying one of the constraints on an existing column (dbt v1.6 or higher)
  • Changing unversioned, contracted models.
    • dbt also warns if a model has or had a contract but isn't versioned
  Breaking Change to Unversioned Contract for contracted_model (models/contracted_models/contracted_model.sql)
While comparing to previous project state, dbt detected a breaking change to an unversioned model.
- Contract enforcement was removed: Previously, this model's configuration included contract: {enforced: true}. It is no longer configured to enforce its contract, and this is a breaking change.
- Columns were removed:
- color
- date_day
- Enforced column level constraints were removed:
- id (ConstraintType.not_null)
- id (ConstraintType.primary_key)
- Enforced model level constraints were removed:
- ConstraintType.check -> ['id']
- Materialization changed with enforced constraints:
- table -> view

Additive changes are not considered breaking:

  • Adding a new column to a contracted model
  • Adding new constraints to an existing column in a contracted model