What Does Fourth Normal Form (4NF) Mean?
Fourth normal form (4NF) is a level of database normalization where there are no non-trivial multivalued dependencies other than a candidate key.
It builds on the first three normal forms (1NF, 2NF and 3NF) and the Boyce-Codd Normal Form (BCNF). It states that, in addition to a database meeting the requirements of BCNF, it must not contain more than one multivalued dependency.
Techopedia Explains Fourth Normal Form (4NF)
A multivalued dependency is best illustrated using an example. In a table containing a list of three things - college courses, the lecturer in charge of each course and the recommended book for each course - these three elements (course, lecturer and book) are independent of one another. Changing the course’s recommended book, for instance, has no effect on the course itself. This is an example of multivalued dependency: An item depends on more than one value. In this example, the course depends on both lecturer and book.
Thus, 4NF states that a table should not have more than one of these dependencies. 4NF is rarely used outside of academic circles.