Introduction to Python Dictionaries

A dictionary is an unordered collection of items where each item is stored as a key-value pair. Keys must be unique and immutable, while values can be of any data type.

Initializing a Python Dictionary

Initializing a dictionary in Python can be done in a few different ways. Here are a few examples:

Using Curly Braces {}

You can initialize an empty dictionary or a dictionary with some initial key-value pairs using curly braces.

# Empty dictionary
my_dict = {}

# Dictionary with initial key-value pairs
my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

Using the dict() Constructor

You can create a dictionary using the dict() constructor by passing key-value pairs or an iterable of key-value pairs (as tuples).

# Empty dictionary using dict()
my_dict = dict()

# Dictionary with key-value pairs using dict()
my_dict = dict(key1='value1', key2='value2', key3='value3')

# Dictionary from a list of tuples
pairs = [('key1', 'value1'), ('key2', 'value2'), ('key3', 'value3')]
my_dict = dict(pairs)

Using a Dictionary Comprehension

You can create a dictionary using a dictionary comprehension which allows you to generate a dictionary based on some conditions or iterations.

# Dictionary comprehension
my_dict = {key: key * 2 for key in range(1, 5)}
# This creates a dictionary like {1: 2, 2: 4, 3: 6, 4: 8}

Adding an Element to a Dictionary

You can add a single element or multiple elements.

Adding a Single Element

  • Using square brackets [ ]:

You can add a new key-value pair to a dictionary by simply assigning a value to a new key within square brackets.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2'}

# Adding a new key-value pair
my_dict['key3'] = 'value3'
  • Using the update() method:

The update() method adds a key-value pair to the dictionary if the key is not already present. If the key exists, it updates its value.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2'}

# Adding/Updating a key-value pair
my_dict.update({'key3': 'value3'})

Adding Multiple Elements

  • Using the update() method with another dictionary:

You can add multiple key-value pairs to a dictionary by passing another dictionary to the update() method.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2'}

# Adding multiple key-value pairs
my_dict.update({'key3': 'value3', 'key4': 'value4'})
  • Using a dictionary comprehension:

You can merge dictionaries or add multiple key-value pairs using a dictionary comprehension.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2'}
new_elements = {'key3': 'value3', 'key4': 'value4'}

# Adding multiple key-value pairs using a dictionary comprehension

Accessing Dictionary Values

In Python, you can access the values of a dictionary using keys. There are several ways to do - you can access singlue or multiple values.

Accessing a Single Value

  • Using square brackets [ ]:

You can access the value associated with a specific key by using square brackets with the key inside.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2'}

# Accessing the value of 'key1'
value = my_dict['key1']
  • Using the get() method:

The get() method allows you to retrieve the value for a given key. If the key doesn't exist, it returns None or a default value specified as the second argument.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2'}

# Accessing the value of 'key2'
value = my_dict.get('key2')

Accessing Multiple Values

  • Using a loop:

You can iterate through all the keys in the dictionary and access their corresponding values.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2'}

# Accessing all values using a loop
for key in my_dict: value = my_dict[key] # Do something with the value
  • Using the values() method:

The values() method returns a view object that contains the values of the dictionary, which can be converted to a list or iterated through directly.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2'}

# Accessing all values using values()all_values = list(my_dict.values())
# or
for value in my_dict.values(): # Do something with the value

Deleting an Element from a Dictionary

In Python, you can delete elements from a dictionary using several methods based on your needs. Here are a few ways to delete elements from a dictionary.

Deleting a Single Element

  • Using the del keyword:

You can use the del keyword followed by the key to delete a specific key-value pair from the dictionary.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

# Deleting 'key2' and its associated value
del my_dict['key2']
  • Using the pop() method:

The pop() method removes the specified key and returns its corresponding value. This method is useful if you want to use the deleted value after removing it from the dictionary.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

# Deleting 'key2' and getting its value
deleted_value = my_dict.pop('key2')

Deleting Multiple Elements

  • Using the popitem() method:

The popitem() method removes the last inserted key-value pair from the dictionary and returns it as a tuple. However, note that from Python 3.7 onwards, dictionaries preserve insertion order, so this method removes the last added element.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

# Deleting the last inserted key-value pair
deleted_item = my_dict.popitem()
  • Using the clear() method:

The clear() method removes all the elements from the dictionary, making it an empty dictionary.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

# Clearing all elements from the dictionary

Iterating Over a Dictionary in Python

In Python, there are several ways to iterate over a dictionary, allowing you to access its keys and values, or both simultaneously.

Iterating Over Keys

  • Using a for loop with the dictionary keys:

You can iterate over the keys of a dictionary using a for loop.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

# Iterating over keys
for key in my_dict: print(key) # Accessing each key
  • Using the keys() method:

The keys() method returns a view object that contains all the keys of the dictionary.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

# Iterating over keys using keys()
for key in my_dict.keys(): print(key) # Accessing each key

Iterating Over Values

  • Using the values() method:

The values() method returns a view object containing all the values of the dictionary.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

# Iterating over values using values()
for value in my_dict.values(): print(value) # Accessing each value

Iterating Over Both Keys and Values

  • Using items() method:

The items() method returns a view object that contains tuples of key-value pairs.

my_dict = {'key1': 'value1', 'key2': 'value2', 'key3': 'value3'}

# Iterating over key-value pairs using items()
for key, value in my_dict.items(): print(f"Key: {key}, Value: {value}") # Accessing key and value simultaneously

Merging Python's Dictionaries

In Python, there are multiple ways to merge dictionaries.

Using the update() Method

You can use the update() method to merge dictionary into dictionary in Python. This method modifies the original dictionary in place.

dict1 = {'a': 1, 'b': 2}
dict2 = {'b': 3, 'c': 4}

# Merging dict2 into dict1

print(dict1) # Output: {'a': 1, 'b': 3, 'c': 4}

Using Dictionary Unpacking

You can use the unpacking operator (**) to merge dictionaries (Python 3.5 and later).

dict1 = {'a': 1, 'b': 2}
dict2 = {'b': 3, 'c': 4}

# Merging dict2 into dict1 using unpacking
merged_dict = {**dict1, **dict2}

print(merged_dict) # Output: {'a': 1, 'b': 3, 'c': 4}

Using dict() Constructor

You can also use the dict() constructor to merge dictionaries.

dict1 = {'a': 1, 'b': 2}
dict2 = {'b': 3, 'c': 4}

# Merging dict1 and dict2 using the dict() constructor
merged_dict = dict(dict1, **dict2)

# Output: {'a': 1, 'b': 3, 'c': 4}

Using collections.ChainMap

The collections.ChainMap class can combine multiple dictionaries into a single mapping (for Python 3.3 and later).

from collections import ChainMap
dict1 = {'a': 1, 'b': 2}
dict2 = {'b': 3, 'c': 4}

# Merging dict1 and dict2 using ChainMap
merged_dict = dict(ChainMap(dict1, dict2))

print(merged_dict) # Output: {'a': 1, 'b': 2, 'c': 4}

Sorting a Dictionary

In Python, dictionaries inherently don't maintain order until Python 3.7. From Python 3.7 onwards, dictionaries maintain insertion order. If you're using Python 3.7 or later versions, dictionaries retain the order in which items were inserted.

To sort a dictionary's contents, you can create a sorted list or a sorted dictionary based on your requirements.

Sorting a Dictionary by Keys or Values

Sorting by keys:

my_dict = {'c': 3, 'a': 1, 'b': 2}

# Sort by keys
sorted_dict_by_keys = dict(sorted(my_dict.items()))
print(sorted_dict_by_keys) # Output: {'a': 1, 'b': 2, 'c': 3}

Sorting by Values:

my_dict = {'c': 3, 'a': 1, 'b': 2}

# Sort by values
sorted_dict_by_values = dict(sorted(my_dict.items(), key=lambda item: item[1]))
# Output: {'a': 1, 'b': 2, 'c': 3}

Sorting a Dictionary in Descending Order

You can reverse the sorting order by adding reverse=True in the sorted() function:

my_dict = {'c': 3, 'a': 1, 'b': 2}

# Sort by values in descending order
sorted_dict_descending = dict(sorted(my_dict.items(), key=lambda item: item[1], reverse=True))
print(sorted_dict_descending) # Output: {'c': 3, 'b': 2, 'a': 1}

Note: remember that dictionaries themselves don't have an inherent order prior to Python 3.7. The sorted methods provided above create a new sorted list or dictionary based on the keys or values extracted from the original dictionary. If maintaining the order is crucial, consider using collections.OrderedDict for versions earlier than Python 3.7, or rely on the inherent insertion order if using Python 3.7 or later versions.

Nested Dictionaries

Nested dictionaries in Python are dictionaries that contain other dictionaries as values, in other words it is dictionary of dictionaries. Combining dictionaries allows for a hierarchical structure to store and access data.

Here's an example of a nested dictionary:

nested_dict = {
	'person1': {
		'name': 'Alice',
		'age': 30,
		'address': {
			'street': '123 Main St',
			'city': 'Cityville',
			'zipcode': '12345'
	'person2': {
		'name': 'Bob',
		'age': 25,
		'address': {
			'street': '456 Elm St',
			'city': 'Townsville',
			'zipcode': '67890'

In this example:

  • nested_dict contains two keys: 'person1' and 'person2'.
  • Each key holds another dictionary containing information about a person.
  • Each person's dictionary contains keys such as 'name', 'age', and 'address'.
  • The 'address' key itself contains another nested dictionary with details about the address.

Accessing Values in Nested Dictionaries

To access values within nested dictionaries, you can use multiple key lookups:

# Accessing data in the nested dictionary
print(nested_dict['person1']['name']) # Output: Alice
print(nested_dict['person2']['age']) # Output: 25
print(nested_dict['person1']['address']['city']) # Output: Cityville

Modifying Values in Nested Dictionaries

You can modify values in a nested dictionary using a similar approach:

# Modifying data in the nested dictionary
nested_dict['person2']['age'] = 26
nested_dict['person1']['address']['city'] = 'New City'

print(nested_dict['person2']['age']) # Output: 26
print(nested_dict['person1']['address']['city']) # Output: New City

Adding Elements to Nested Dictionaries

You can add new elements or dictionaries within the existing structure:

# Adding new elements to the nested dictionary
nested_dict['person1']['gender'] = 'Female'
nested_dict['person2']['address']['country'] = 'Countryland'
print(nested_dict['person1']['gender']) # Output: Female
print(nested_dict['person2']['address']['country']) # Output: Countryland
Emily Rodriguez

I have accumulated over 15 years of expertise in Python programming. My focus lies in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing using libraries such as TensorFlow, scikit-learn, NLTK, and spaCy. Additionally, I specialize in backend development utilizing Django and asynchronous frameworks like FastAPI for scalable applications.

Blog Author:Emily Rodriguez