A constant is a identifier (name) for a simple value. As the name suggests, that value cannot change during the execution of the script. (The 'magic constants' __FILE__ and __LINE__ appear to be an exception to this, but they're not actually constants.) A constant is case-sensitive by default. By convention constant identifiers are always uppercase.
The name of a constant follows the same rules as any label in PHP. A valid constant name starts with a letter or underscore, followed by any number of letters, numbers, or underscores. As a regular expression, it would be expressed thus: [a-zA-Z_\x7f-\xff][a-zA-Z0-9_\x7f-\xff]*
Note: For our purposes here, a letter is a-z, A-Z, and the ASCII characters from 127 through 255 (0x7f-0xff).
The scope of a constant is global--you can access it anywhere in your script without regard to scope.
You can define a constant by using the define()-function. Once a constant is defined, it can never be changed or undefined.
You can get the value of a constant by simply specifying its name. Unlike with variables, you should not prepend a constant with a $. You can also use the function constant(), to read a constant's value, if you are to obtain the constant's name dynamically. Use get_defined_constants() to get a list of all defined constants.
Note: Constants and (global) variables are in a different namespace. This implies that for example TRUE and $TRUE are generally different.
If you use an undefined constant, PHP assumes that you mean the name of the constant itself. A notice will be issued when this happens. Use the defined()-function if you want to know if a constant is set.
These are the differences between constants and variables:
Constants do not have a dollar sign ($) before them;
Constants may only be defined using the define() function, not by simple assignment;
Constants may be defined and accessed anywhere without regard to variable scoping rules;
Constants may not be redefined or undefined once they have been set; and
Constants may only evaluate to scalar values.