dbt - Documentation

schema.yml Files

Using schema.yml files to document and test your models

New in dbt v0.11.0

Much of the functionality described below is new or changed in v0.11.0. Double check that you are using the correct version of the dbt documentation for your specific environment!


In dbt, models are defined in .sql files containing SELECT statements. dbt provides a mechanism, schema.yml files, to both test and document these models. This section of the documentation provides an overview of the syntax for these schema.yml files. For specific information about testing models, check out the Testing guide. For more information about documenting your models, check out the Documentation guide. Read on for general information about schema.yml syntax and semantics.

A word on naming

When dbt runs, it will search through the source-paths directories of your dbt project looking for any files that end with .yml. While this documentation site will always refer to these files as schema.yml, you are free to name these files however you'd like, as long as they end with .yml. You can have as many of these schema.yml files as you'd like, and they can be nested arbitrarily deeply into your models directories.

Versioning schema.yml

As of dbt v0.11.0, there are two valid formats for the schema.yml file: version 1 and version 2. This guide details the version 2 syntax. For more information about version 1, check out the 0.10.0 docs. While the version 1 syntax is still valid, it is recommended that you upgrade to the version 2 syntax. More information on migrating can be found in the 0.11.0 migration guide

Anatomy of schema.yml

A schema.yml file is a dictionary with two top-level fields: version and models. An example of a schema.yml file is shown below. This example describes a model named events. It contains a description for the model, as well as descriptions and tests for three of the columns in the model.

version: 2

  - name: events
    description: A table containing clickstream events from the marketing website

        - name: event_id
          description: This is a unique identifier for the event
              - unique
              - not_null

        - name: event_time
          description: "When the event occurred in UTC (eg. 2018-01-01 12:00:00)"
              - not_null
        - name: user_id
          description: The ID of the user who recorded the event
              - not_null
              - relationships:
                  to: ref('users')
                  field: id



The name field can be used to specify both model names and column names in schema.yml files. When name is used to denote a model (as shown on line 4 above), dbt will look up that model by its filename. The example above will look for a model called events.sql, for instance.


The description field can be used to describe both models, and the columns contained within a model. You can either supply a simple string here (as shown above), or you can reference long-form markdown using a docs block. More information on docs blocks can be found in the Documenting Models guide.

Be mindful of yaml semantics when providing a description. If your description contains special yaml characters like curly brackets, colons, or square brackets, you may need to quote your description. An example of a quoted description is shown in the description field for event_time above.


The tests field is used to assert properties of a column or table. Defining tests is a great way to confirm that your code is working correctly, and also helps prevent regressions when your code changes.

In the example above, the not_null, unique, and relationships tests are specified for columns in the events model. Once these tests are defined, you can validate their correctness by running dbt test. More information on the options and syntax for these schema tests can be found in the Testing guide.

Troubleshooting Common Errors

'list' object has no attribute 'get'

This error occurs when a version 2 schema.yml file is run with dbt < 0.11.0. If you encounter this error, you can resolve it by 1) upgrading to dbt v0.11.0, or using the version 1 schema.yml syntax.

Invalid test config given in [model name]

This error occurs when your schema.yml does not conform to the structure expected by dbt. A full error message might look like:

* Invalid test config given in models/schema.yml near {'namee': 'event', ...}
  Invalid arguments passed to "UnparsedNodeUpdate" instance: 'name' is a required property, Additional properties are not allowed ('namee' was unexpected)

While verbose, an error like this should help you track down the issue. Here, the name field was provided as namee by accident. To fix this error, ensure that your schema.yml conforms to the expected structure described in this guide.

Invalid syntax in your schema.yml file

If your schema.yml file is not valid yaml, then dbt will show you an error like this:

Runtime Error
  Syntax error near line 6
  5  |   - name: events
  6  |     description; "A table containing clickstream events from the marketing website"
  7  | 

  Raw Error:
  while scanning a simple key
    in "<unicode string>", line 6, column 5:
          description; "A table containing clickstream events from the marketing website"

This error occurred because a semicolon (;) was accidentally used instead of a colon (:) after the description field. To resolve issues like this, find the schema.yml file referenced in the error message and fix any syntax errors present in the file. There are online yaml validators that can be helpful here, but please be mindful of submitting sensitive information to third-party applications!

What's Next

All set with schema.yml file syntax? Great! Put these files to work with Testing and Documentation.