Nested Objectsedit

Given the fact that creating, deleting, and updating a single document in Elasticsearch is atomic, it makes sense to store closely related entities within the same document. For instance, we could store an order and all of its order lines in one document, or we could store a blog post and all of its comments together, by passing an array of comments:

PUT /my_index/blogpost/1
  "title": "Nest eggs",
  "body":  "Making your money work...",
  "tags":  [ "cash", "shares" ],
  "comments": [ 
      "name":    "John Smith",
      "comment": "Great article",
      "age":     28,
      "stars":   4,
      "date":    "2014-09-01"
      "name":    "Alice White",
      "comment": "More like this please",
      "age":     31,
      "stars":   5,
      "date":    "2014-10-22"

If we rely on dynamic mapping, the comments field will be autocreated as an object field.

Because all of the content is in the same document, there is no need to join blog posts and comments at query time, so searches perform well.

The problem is that the preceding document would match a query like this:

GET /_search
  "query": {
    "bool": {
      "must": [
        { "match": { "": "Alice" }},
        { "match": { "comments.age":  28      }} 

Alice is 31, not 28!

The reason for this cross-object matching, as discussed in Arrays of Inner Objects, is that our beautifully structured JSON document is flattened into a simple key-value format in the index that looks like this:

  "title":            [ eggs, nest ],
  "body":             [ making, money, work, your ],
  "tags":             [ cash, shares ],
  "":    [ alice, john, smith, white ],
  "comments.comment": [ article, great, like, more, please, this ],
  "comments.age":     [ 28, 31 ],
  "comments.stars":   [ 4, 5 ],
  "":    [ 2014-09-01, 2014-10-22 ]

The correlation between Alice and 31, or between John and 2014-09-01, has been irretrievably lost. While fields of type object (see Multilevel Objects) are useful for storing a single object, they are useless, from a search point of view, for storing an array of objects.

This is the problem that nested objects are designed to solve. By mapping the comments field as type nested instead of type object, each nested object is indexed as a hidden separate document, something like this:

  "":    [ john, smith ],
  "comments.comment": [ article, great ],
  "comments.age":     [ 28 ],
  "comments.stars":   [ 4 ],
  "":    [ 2014-09-01 ]
  "":    [ alice, white ],
  "comments.comment": [ like, more, please, this ],
  "comments.age":     [ 31 ],
  "comments.stars":   [ 5 ],
  "":    [ 2014-10-22 ]
  "title":            [ eggs, nest ],
  "body":             [ making, money, work, your ],
  "tags":             [ cash, shares ]

First nested object

Second nested object

The root or parent document

By indexing each nested object separately, the fields within the object maintain their relationships. We can run queries that will match only if the match occurs within the same nested object.

Not only that, because of the way that nested objects are indexed, joining the nested documents to the root document at query time is fast—almost as fast as if they were a single document.

These extra nested documents are hidden; we can’t access them directly. To update, add, or remove a nested object, we have to reindex the whole document. It’s important to note that, the result returned by a search request is not the nested object alone; it is the whole document.