Inferring GraphQL Schema From An Existing Database

Typically when we start a new application, we don't have an existing database and follow the GraphQL-First development paradigm by starting with type definitions. However, in some cases we may have an existing Neo4j database populated with data. In those cases, it can be convenient to generate GraphQL type definitions based on the existing database that can then be fed into makeAugmentedSchema to generate a GraphQL API for the existing database. We can do this with the use of the inferSchema functionality in neo4j-graphql.js.

Let's use the Neo4j Sandbox movies recommendation dataset to auto-generate GraphQL type definitions using inferSchema.

This dataset has information about movies, actors, directors, and user ratings of movies, modelled as a graph:

Movie graph data model

How To Use inferSchema

The inferSchema function takes a Neo4j JavaScript driver instance and returns a Promise that evaluates to our GraphQL type definitions, defined using GraphQL Schema Definition Language (SDL). Here’s a simple example that will inspect our local Neo4j database and log the GraphQL type definitions to the console.

const { inferSchema } = require('neo4j-graphql-js');
const neo4j = require('neo4j-driver');
const driver = neo4j.driver('bolt://localhost:7687',
neo4j.auth.basic('neo4j', 'letmein'));
inferSchema(driver).then( result => {

Running this on the movies dataset would produce the following GraphQL type definitions:

type Movie {
_id: Long!
countries: [String]
imdbId: String!
imdbRating: Float
imdbVotes: Int
languages: [String]
movieId: String!
plot: String
poster: String
released: String
runtime: Int
title: String!
tmdbId: String
year: Int
in_genre: [Genre] @relation(name: "IN_GENRE", direction: OUT)
users: [User] @relation(name: "RATED", direction: IN)
actors: [Actor] @relation(name: "ACTED_IN", direction: IN)
directors: [Director] @relation(name: "DIRECTED", direction: IN)
type RATED @relation(name: "RATED") {
from: User!
to: Movie!
created: DateTime!
rating: Float!
timestamp: Int!
type User {
_id: Long!
name: String!
userId: String!
rated: [Movie] @relation(name: "RATED", direction: OUT)
type Actor {
_id: Long!
name: String!
acted_in: [Movie] @relation(name: "ACTED_IN", direction: OUT)
type Director {
_id: Long!
name: String!
directed: [Movie] @relation(name: "DIRECTED", direction: OUT)
type Genre {
_id: Long!
name: String!
movies: [Movie] @relation(name: "IN_GENRE", direction: IN)

Using inferSchema With makeAugmentedSchema

The real power of inferSchema comes when used in combination with makeAugmentedSchema to create a GraphQL API from only the database. Since makeAugmentedSchema handles generating our Query/Mutation fields and resolvers, that means creating a GraphQL API on top of Neo4j is as simple as passing our typedefs from inferSchema into makeAugmentedSchema.

Here’s a full example:

const { makeAugmentedSchema, inferSchema } = require('neo4j-graphql-js');
const { ApolloServer } = require('apollo-server');
const neo4j = require('neo4j-driver');
// Create Neo4j driver instance
const driver = neo4j.driver(
process.env.NEO4J_URI || 'bolt://localhost:7687',
process.env.NEO4J_USER || 'neo4j',
process.env.NEO4J_PASSWORD || 'letmein'
// Connect to existing Neo4j instance, infer GraphQL typedefs
// generate CRUD GraphQL API using makeAugmentedSchema
const inferAugmentedSchema = driver => {
return inferSchema(driver).then(result => {
return makeAugmentedSchema({
typeDefs: result.typeDefs
// Spin up GraphQL server using auto-generated GraphQL schema object
const createServer = schema =>
new ApolloServer({
context: { driver }
.then(server => server.listen(3000, ''))
.then(({ url }) => {
console.log(`GraphQL API ready at ${url}`);
.catch(err => console.error(err));

Persisting The Inferred Schema

Often it is helpful to generate the inferred schema as a starting point, persist it to a file, and then adjust the generated type definitions as necessary (such as adding custom logic with the use of @cypher directives). Here we generate GraphQL type definitions for our database, saving them to a file named schema.graphql:

const neo4j = require("neo4j-driver");
const { inferSchema } = require("neo4j-graphql-js");
const fs = require("fs");
const driver = neo4j.driver(
neo4j.auth.basic("neo4j", "letmein")
const schemaInferenceOptions = {
alwaysIncludeRelationships: false
inferSchema(driver, schemaInferenceOptions).then(result => {
fs.writeFile("schema.graphql", result.typeDefs, err => {
if (err) throw err;
console.log("Updated schema.graphql");

Then we can load this schema.graphql file and pass the type definitions into makeAugmentedSchema.

// Load GraphQL type definitions from schema.graphql file
const typeDefs = fs
.readFileSync(path.join(__dirname, "schema.graphql"))