How to Use a Foreign Key to Create Many-to-One Relationships in Django

In Django, there are three main types of relationships: one-to-one, many-to-one, and many-to-many.

In this article, I will explain the many-to-one relationship in Django. If you are a beginner with some knowledge about Django project setup or even have some decent experience in Django, you can follow along with this article.

Many-to-one relationship are sometimes referred to as one-to-many relationships. As you'll see below, these are related terms.

What is a Many-to-One Relationship?

Many-to-one relationship is a type of relationship where multiple records in one table are associated to the single record in another table.

Let's assume we have two tables in a database: Department and Employee. The relationship between Department and Employee is a one-to-many relationship. A department can have many employees and each employee belongs to one department.

And, the relationship between the employees and departments is a many-to-one relationship.

This can be illustrated with the diagram below:


Diagram to illustrate many-to-one relationship

For example, an Account department can have many employees (one-to-many) and those employees all belong to the account department (many-to-one).

How to Create Models for Many-to-one Relationships

For this tutorial, the app will have two models: Department and Employee.

So let's start adding code for the models.

from django.db import models

class Department(models.Model):

    def __str__(self):

class Employee(models.Model):
    department=models.ForeignKey(Department, on_delete=models.CASCADE)

    def __str__(self):

TheDepartment model contains only one field, name.

The Employee model contains name and address fields, and also a ForeignKey field (department) which references the Department model. That's the reason it's passing Department as the first argument.

The second argument, on_delete, specifies the behavior to adopt when the reference object is deleted, which is Department in this case.  The models.CASCADE option means that if a Department object is deleted, all related Employee objects will also be deleted.

What is a Foreign Key in a Django Model?

The foreign key is used to connect two tables and establishes the many-to-one relationship. You can define a foreign key in a Django model using the models.ForeignKey field. And this ForeignKey field takes at least two arguments:

department = models.ForeignKey(Department, on_delete=models.CASCADE)

We already discussed these two arguments in the above section.

And you can also pass other arguments like related_name with a value which lets you access foreign keys defined in your Django models backwards.

Database Migrations

Now, you can make the migrations using the makemigrations command. makemigrations

And then you can make changes to the database using the migrate command. migrate

How to Interact with Models

Now, let's play around with shell to understand the primary concepts of many-to-one relationships.

First, you need to run the shell command:

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