Human-readable schema format

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This topic describes Cedar’s human-readable schema format.

Schema format

A schema consists of zero or more namespaces, each of which contains declarations of three types — Entity Type Declaration, Action Declaration, and Common Type Declaration. These declarations define entity types and actions, and common types that define types that can be referenced by the Entity Type and Action Declarations. Declarations are delimited by ; characters. Note that in the human-readable schema format, unlike in the JSON schema format, you can write Cedar-style comments.


You can create a namespace that you want to associate with your declarations. Add the namespace key word, for example namespace Foo { entity Bar; }. The name of a namespace must be an identifier as specified in Cedar syntax. Anything declared in this namespace must be referred to in its fully-qualified form when referenced outside of the namespace, so the declared entity type would be Foo::Bar.

Alternatively, you can create a declaration without a namespace, for example entity Bar;. The names of declarations that lack a namespace are always referred to without qualification, for example Bar.

Multiple namespace declarations with the same names are disallowed. This rule also applies to the inner declarations like entity type declarations.

Entity type

The following entity type declaration specifies an entity type User , whose parent entity type is Group. Entities of type User have three attributes:

  • personalGroup of type Group
  • delegate of type User
  • blocked of type Set<User>

The attribute delegate is optional, as indicated by the ? after the attribute name.

entity User in [Group] {
    personalGroup: Group,
    delegate?: User,
    blocked: Set<User>,

Note that in the human-readable schema format, unlike in the JSON schema format, you can declare multiple entity types that share the same definition using a single declaration. For example, entity UserA, UserB, UserC declares entity types UserA, UserB, and UserC that all have the same membership relations and shapes.

Membership relations

Set an entity to be a member of another with in <EntityTypes> after entity <EntityName>. The EntityTypes declaration can be a list of entity type names surrounded by brackets ([]) and delimited by commas ,, for example entity User in [UserGroup1, UserGroup2]. Entities with one parent type don’t require brackets, for example entity User in UserGroup.

The membership relation declaration is optional. If you don’t create this declaration, the declared entity type doesn’t have any parent entity types.


Specify the shape of an entity type using the record syntax of Cedar policies. Enclose attribute declarations in brackets, each of which is a <Name>:<Type> key-value pair. Attribute names are either identifiers or strings. Such a declaration also defines a record schema type. To make entity type declarations consistent with common type declarations, you can prefix a = to attribute declarations, for example entity User = {...};.

Note that if you omit attribute declarations, then entities of this type don’t have any attributes. This is equivalent to specifying an empty record (i.e., {}).

Schema types

Schema types can be used as right-hand side of an attribute or common type declaration.

Cedar data types have corresponding schema types. The corresponding type names of Cedar primitive data types Boolean, String, Long are Bool, String, Long, respectively.

An entity type or an extension type is specified by its name. The entity type name is an identifier or identifiers separated by ::. For example, both User and ExampleCo::User are valid entity type names.

An extension type name is an identifier. Currently, ipaddr and decimal are the only available extension type names. Since the release of version 3.1 of the Cedar language, the namespace __cedar is a reserved namespace. You can specify fully-qualified type names for primitive and extension types under the __cedar namespace. For example, __cedar::ipaddr uniquely identifies the ipaddr extension type.

Format composite data type declarations as follows.


The specification of a record type is similar to that of a Cedar record, except that values of a record in the human-readable schema are types. For example, you can declare a record type as follows.

  name: String,
  features: {
    age: Long,
    height: Long,
    eyecolor: String

Here is a declaration of an entity type List which contains an attribute flags which is a record:

entity List {
  owner: User,
  flags: {
    organizations?: Set<Org>,
    locales?: Set<Location>,
    tags: Set<String>,

Here, the flags record contains three attributes: organizations (which is optional, per the ? annotation), locales (also optional), and tags. Each of these is a set, where the first two contain entity types Org and Location respectively (not shown), and the third contains Strings.

Suppose resource in a policy is a List entity. Per the above declaration, we can write when-clause expressions that reference the flags attribute’s contents. For example: resource.flags.tags.contains("private") or resource.flags has organizations && resource.flags.organizations.contains(


A set type declaration consists of keyword Set and an element type surrounded by angle brackets (<>).

For example, Set<Long> is a set type made up of values of type Long. Another example of the use of Set types is give above, for the List entity declaration. Finally, another example is this entity declaration for User, whose blocked attribute is a set of Users.

entity User in [Group] {
    personalGroup: Group,
    delegate?: User,
    blocked: Set<User>,


The following action declaration defines the action ViewDocument. It has the following characteristics:

  • It’s a member of action group ReadActions
  • It applies to principals of entity type User and Public
  • It applies to resources of entity type Document
  • It applies to context of record types network: ipaddr and browser: String.
action ViewDocument in [ReadActions, ExampleNS::Action::"Write"] appliesTo {
    principal: [User,Public],
    resource: Document,
    context: {
        network: ipaddr,
        browser: String

An action name is either an identifier or a string. The membership relation syntax of action declarations is like that of entity declarations, but parent action names can be strings, and entity type names must be identifiers. If a parent action is declared in another namespace, its name must be a fully-qualified action entity name. This is illustrated by the action Write in the example action declaration. It’s declared in the namespace ExampleNS with the fully-qualified name ExampleNS::Action::"Write".

The appliesTo construct specifies an action’s applicability. It is a record of three optional keys: principal, resource, and context that the action applies to. Without the appliesTo construct in your schema, the actions do not apply to any principals, resources, or contexts. The principal and resource keys, if given, must an entity type or a non-empty list of entity types. Without principal or resource keys in your schema, the action applies to unspecified principals or resources, respectively. The context value must be a record and its absence defaults to an empty record.

Common types

Like in the JSON schema format, human-readable schema syntax allows for declarations of common types so that entity type declarations can use them to avoid error-prone duplication. The syntax of common type declarations is similar to defining type aliases in most programming languages: type <Id> = <Type> . The Type is a schema type, including common types and types containing them. So, there is a chance there could be cycles in common type declarations: for instance, type A = Set<B>; type B = {"a" : A};. In these cases, the Cedar schema parser will report an error.

Type name disambiguation

Type names in the human-readable schema format can conflict with each other. For example, ipaddr is a valid unqualified common type name as well as an extension type name. Foo::Bar is a valid qualified common type name and an entity type name. Cedar uses the following rules to disambiguate type names.

  1. Primitive and extension type names cannot alias by design.
  2. Type references are resolved in a priority order.
  3. To disambiguate extension and primitive types from others, the namespace __cedar is reserved. For example, __cedar::Long uniquely refers to Cedar primitive type Long.

The priority order is

common type > entity type > primitive/extension type

A type name is resolved by checking if it is declared as a common type, then entity type, and finally a primitive or extension type. The following example demonstrates this rule.

namespace Demo {
  entity Host {
    // the type of attribute `ip` is common type `ipaddr`
    // instead of extension type `__cedar::ipaddr`
    // because the former has a higher priority
    ip: ipaddr,
    // the type of attribute `bandwidth` is extension type `decimal`
    // because there is not any common type or entity type
    // that shares the same name
    bandwidth: decimal,
  // An artificial entity type name that conflicts with
  // primitive type `String`
  entity String {
    groups: Set<__cedar::String>,
  // A common type name that conflicts with extension
  // type `ipaddr`
  type ipaddr = {
    // The type of attribute `repr` is the entity type
    // `String` declared above instead of primitive type
    // `__cedar::String` because the former has a higher
    // priority
    repr: String,
    // The type of attribute `isV4` is the primitive type
    // `Bool` because there is not any common type or
    // entity type that shares the same name
    isV4: Bool,

Common types and entity types can both be qualified with namespaces. The human-readable format allows inline declarations. Because of this, there may be conflicts between type names declared within a namespace and those declared using inline declarations. The resolution rule for this scenario is like static scoping: type names within the same namespace have higher priority. The following example demonstrates this rule.

type id = {
  group: String,
  name: String,

type email_address = {
  id: String,
  domain: String,

namespace Demo {
  entity User {
    // The type of attribute `name` is the primitive type `String`
    // because there is a common type declaration below.
    name: id,
    // The type of attribute `email` is the common type `email_address`
    // declared above.
    email: email_address;
  type id = String;

Example schema

The following schema is for the hypothetical application PhotoFlash.

namespace PhotoFlash {
  entity User in UserGroup = {
    "department": String,
    "jobLevel": Long,
  entity UserGroup;
  entity Album in Album = {
    "account": Account,
    "private": Bool,
  entity Account = {
    "admins"?: Set<User>,
    "owner": User,
  entity Photo in Album = {
    "account": Account,
    "private": Bool,
  action "uploadPhoto" appliesTo {
    principal: User, 
    resource: Album, 
    context: {
      "authenticated": Bool,
      "photo": {
        "file_size": Long,
        "file_type": String,
  action "viewPhoto" appliesTo {
    principal: User, 
    resource: Photo, 
    context: {
      "authenticated": Bool,
  action "listAlbums" appliesTo {
    principal: User, 
    resource: Account, 
    context: {
      "authenticated": Bool,