A SPARQL-like query engine and DSL for querying in memory RDF models.

clojure, datalog, dsl, linked-data, query-engine, rdf, sparql



Clojars Project

WARNING: Alpha Software Subject to Change

A Clojure DSL to query in memory triple models with a SPARQL like language. Matcha provides simple BGP (Basic Graph Pattern) style queries on in memory graphs of linked data triples.


Whilst Matcha is intended to query RDF models it can also be used to query arbitrary clojure data, so long as it consists of Clojure values stored in 3/tuple vectors, each entity of the triple is assumed to follow Clojure value equality semantics.

The primary use cases for Matcha are to make handling graphs of RDF data easy by querying data with SPARQL-like queries. A typical workflow is to CONSTRUCT data from a backend SPARQL query, and then use Matcha to query this graph locally.


  • SPARQL-like BGP queries across multiple triple patterns
  • Ability to index your database, with index-triples. In order to be queried Matcha needs to have indexed the data; if your data is unindexed it will index it before running the query, and then dispose of the index. This can lead to poor performance when you want to query the same set of data multiple times.
  • Construct graph query results directly into clojure datastructures.


The initial implementation is macro heavy. This means use cases where you want to dynamically create in memory queries may be more awkward.

Currently there is no support for the following SPARQL-like features:

  1. OPTIONALs, though we can probably add these (planned)
  2. Reasoning on in memory vocabularies with RDFS (maybe OWL)
  3. Clojurescript support (planned)
  4. Ability to bind a query variable to one or more triples, like SPARQL BIND or VALUES clauses.


Matcha defines some primary query functions select, select-1, construct, construct-1 and ask.

First lets define an in memory database of triples, in reality this could come from a SPARQL query CONSTRUCT, but here we'll just define some RDF-like data inline.

Triples can be vectors of clojure values or any datastructure that supports positional destructuring via clojure.lang.Indexed, this allows Matcha to work grafter.rdf.protocols.Statement records. Matcha works with any clojure values in the triples, be they java URI's, or clojure keywords.

(def friends [[:rick :rdfs/label "Rick"]
              [:martin :rdfs/label "Martin"]
              [:katie :rdfs/label "Katie"]
              [:julie :rdfs/label "Julie"]

              [:rick :foaf/knows :martin]
              [:rick :foaf/knows :katie]
              [:katie :foaf/knows :julie]])

Now we can build our query functions:

General Query Semantics

There are two main concepts to Matcha queries. They typically define:

  1. a projection, which states what variables to return to your Clojure program, and the datastructure they should be returned in.
  2. a Basic Graph Pattern (BGP), that defines the pattern of the graph traversal.

BGPs have some semantics you need to be aware of:

  • Clojure symbols beginning with a ? are treated specially as query variables.
  • Other symbols are resolved to their values.


select compiles a query function from your arguments, that returns results as a sequence of tuples. It is directly analagous to SPARQL's SELECT query:

(def rick-knows (select [?name]
                  [[:rick :foaf/knows ?p2]
                   [?p2 :rdfs/label ?name]]))

When called with two arguments select expects the first argument to be a vector of variables to project into the solution sequence, the second argument is analagous to a SPARQL WHERE clause and should be a BGP.

We can then run the query like so:

(rick-knows friends) ;; ["Martin" "Katie"]

There is also select-1 which is just like select but returns just the first solution.


CONSTRUCTs are the most powerful query type, as they allow you to construct arbitrary clojure data structures directly from your query results, and position the projected query variables where ever you want within the structure.

(def query (construct {:grafter.rdf/uri :rick
                                :foaf/knows {:grafter.rdf/uri ?p
                                :rdfs/label ?name}}
         [[:rick :foaf/knows ?p]
         [?p :rdfs/label ?name]]))


{:grafter.rdf/uri :rick
                :foaf/knows #{{:grafter.rdf/uri :martin, :rdfs/label "Martin"}
                              {:grafter.rdf/uri :katie, :rdfs/label "Katie"}}}

Maps in a projection that contain the special key of :grafter.rdf/uri trigger extra behaviour, and cause the query engine to group solutions by subject, and merge values into clojure sets. For example in the above query you'll notice that foaf:knows groups its solutions. If you don't want these maps to be grouped, don't include the magic key :grafter.rdf/uri in the top level projection.

There is also construct-1 which is just like construct but returns only the first solution.

See the unit tests for more examples, including examples that use Matcha with Grafter Statements and vocabularies.


ask is the only query that doesn't specify an explicit projection. It accepts a BGP, like the other query types and returns a boolean result if there were any matches found.

(def any-triples? (ask [[?s ?p ?o]])

(any-triples? friends) ;; => true


Matcha is intended to be used on modest sizes of data, typically thousands of triples, and usually no more than a few hundred thousand triples. Proper benchmarking hasn't yet been done but finding all solutions on a database of a million triples can be done on a laptop in less than 10 seconds. Query time scaling seems to be roughly linear with the database size.


Copyright © Swirrl IT Ltd 2018

Distributed under the Eclipse Public License either version 1.0 or (at your option) any later version.