The Hive syntax is ambiguous prior to Hive 2.0 - you can use either "DB.TABLE" or "TABLE.COLUMN". To ensure this always works you need to switch databases, then use the unqualified table name: "DESCRIBE <TABLE>". If you want to describe a column, run "DESCRIBE [DB.]TABLE COLUMN".
This is fixed in Hive 2.0, but the change is backwards incompatible.
Note - this is only an issue when table and database name are the same, it should work fine under other conditions. See https: