Hibernate inheritance

4 minute read

This note is about using inheritance on entities.



we already saw inheritance in the OOP - inheritance note, and inheritance in the entities world is about the same, with a few twists to consider.

inheritance in the realm of orm

let’s dive into how I use inheritance in BMC_Anvil with an example.

the base class

@EqualsAndHashCode(onlyExplicitlyIncluded = true)
public abstract class BaseEntity {

    private UUID id;

    @ManyToOne(fetch = LAZY)
    private UserEntity createdBy;

    @Column(updatable = false)
    private LocalDateTime createdAt;

    private LocalDateTime updatedAt;


this is an abstract class, and we already know from the OOP - inheritance note that abstract classes cannot be instantiated. This is exactly our purpose here as we do not want rogue instances of BaseEntity running around. The only purpose of this class is to serve as basis for others.

not only that… this class is not marked as an @Entity itself so there won’t be a table for it on the database, instead this class is annotated as @MappedSuperClass.

@MappedSuperClass indicates that mapping information from this class is applied to the inheriting entities. This means that each entity class that extends from this BaseEntity inherits all 4 fields:

  • UUID id: as the id
  • UserEntity createdBy: as the creator of a given record
  • LocalDateTime createdAt: as the date-time of creation
  • LocalDateTime updated: as the date-time of update

when you think about this approach, I wanted every table to have creation and update info, the user responsible for creating a given record and the id type shared across all records will be of the uuid kind.

the extending class

let’s check how the above is used by examining a class that extends from BaseEntity.

@Table(name = "comment")
@EqualsAndHashCode(onlyExplicitlyIncluded = true, callSuper = true)
public class CommentEntity extends BaseEntity {

    @Column(columnDefinition = "text")
    private String comment;

    private CardEntity card;


the CommentEntity extends the BaseEntity and that is it, nothing else is required from the classes that inherit from BaseEntity.
when looking at the db, this class will have id, createdBy, createdAt and updatedAt fields.

inheritance purpose on entities

as stated on the OOP - inheritance note, code reusability is a big topic when using inheritance. It is true in general, and it is true here too. When you care for the amount of code we save ourselves from repeating on each entity, it can be in the hundreds.

there is something that is subtle in the case of entities and inheritance. It is not just avoiding repetition per se or making contracts for inheritors.
it is modeling our tables with shared properties and commonality. What I meant to convey by using this approach is that I want every table to have a creator, and timestamps. A database inheritance of sorts.

cascading inheritance on entities

just like with common inheritance, cascading inheritance is supported.

in BMC_Anvil we have 3 very distinct entity types.

  • catalogs: these are common datasets used by the application and by the record entities, ie: labels, statuses, seniority, etc.
  • records: this is the data we actually want to track, the meat of the app, ie: accounts, cards, projects, etc.
  • other: entities that won’t fall into any of the above 2 categories, ie: changelogs, time tracking, configuration, comments, etc.

catalogs will have in common:

  • name
  • description
  • isSystem: a boolean indicating if a record is isSystem reserved or not

records will have in common:

  • name
  • description
  • coverImage

let’s see how cascading inheritance will work with an example.

@EqualsAndHashCode(onlyExplicitlyIncluded = true, callSuper = true)
public abstract class BaseCatalogEntity extends BaseEntity {

    @Column(unique = true)
    private String name;

    @Column(columnDefinition = "boolean default false")
    private Boolean isSystem;

    private String description;


this class extends the BaseEntity as we said before and is itself annotated with @MappedSuperClass. It means its associations will pass down to any class that extends from it

@Table(name = "seniority")
@EqualsAndHashCode(onlyExplicitlyIncluded = true, callSuper = true)
public class SeniorityEntity extends BaseCatalogEntity {

    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "seniority", cascade = ALL)
    public Set<UserEntity> users = new HashSet<>();

    private short level;

here a SeniorityEntity class extends the BaseCatalogEntity, declaring its own fields and inheriting then:

  • from BaseEntity:
    • id
    • createdBy
    • createdAt
    • updatedAt
  • from BaseCatalogEntity:
    • name
    • description
    • isSystem

this catalog entity and all catalogs will now have that shape on the database, the same will apply to records with their own inherited fields.

note on multiple cascading inheritance

as u can see from above, BaseCatalogEntity share name and description with the base records entity… we cannot move them to the BaseEntity or it will be specialized beyond what we want from it. Why not extract those 2 fields into another class and inherit from that new one before creating the BaseCatalogEntity or the base records one?

as stated in OOP - inheritance note, probably a cascade of 3 classes is enough and I am respecting that for readability’s sake.