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2.3.7 Mapping Types

A mapping object maps immutable values to arbitrary objects. Mappings are mutable objects. There is currently only one standard mapping type, the dictionary. A dictionary's keys are almost arbitrary values. Only values containing lists, dictionaries or other mutable types (that are compared by value rather than by object identity) may not be used as keys. Numeric types used for keys obey the normal rules for numeric comparison: if two numbers compare equal (such as 1 and 1.0) then they can be used interchangeably to index the same dictionary entry.

Dictionaries are created by placing a comma-separated list of key: value pairs within braces, for example: {'jack': 4098, 'sjoerd': 4127} or {4098: 'jack', 4127: 'sjoerd'}.

The following operations are defined on mappings (where a and b are mappings, k is a key, and v and x are arbitrary objects):

Operation  Result  Notes 
len(a) the number of items in a  
a[k] the item of a with key k (1)
a[k] = v set a[k] to v  
del a[k] remove a[k] from a (1)
a.clear() remove all items from a  
a.copy() a (shallow) copy of a  
a.has_key(k) True if a has a key k, else False  
k in a Equivalent to a.has_key(k) (2)
k not in a Equivalent to not a.has_key(k) (2)
a.items() a copy of a's list of (key, value) pairs (3)
a.keys() a copy of a's list of keys (3)
a.update(b) for k in b.keys(): a[k] = b[k]  
a.fromkeys(seq[, value]) Creates a new dictionary with keys from seq and values set to value (7)
a.values() a copy of a's list of values (3)
a.get(k[, x]) a[k] if k in a, else x (4)
a.setdefault(k[, x]) a[k] if k in a, else x (also setting it) (5)
a.pop(k[, x]) a[k] if k in a, else x (and remove k) (8)
a.popitem() remove and return an arbitrary (key, value) pair (6)
a.iteritems() return an iterator over (key, value) pairs (2), (3)
a.iterkeys() return an iterator over the mapping's keys (2), (3)
a.itervalues() return an iterator over the mapping's values (2), (3)


Raises a KeyError exception if k is not in the map.


New in version 2.2.


Keys and values are listed in random order. If items(), keys(), values(), iteritems(), iterkeys(), and itervalues() are called with no intervening modifications to the dictionary, the lists will directly correspond. This allows the creation of (value, key) pairs using zip(): "pairs = zip(a.values(), a.keys())". The same relationship holds for the iterkeys() and itervalues() methods: "pairs = zip(a.itervalues(), a.iterkeys())" provides the same value for pairs. Another way to create the same list is "pairs = [(v, k) for (k, v) in a.iteritems()]".


Never raises an exception if k is not in the map, instead it returns x. x is optional; when x is not provided and k is not in the map, None is returned.


setdefault() is like get(), except that if k is missing, x is both returned and inserted into the dictionary as the value of k.


popitem() is useful to destructively iterate over a dictionary, as often used in set algorithms.


fromkeys() is a class method that returns a new dictionary. value defaults to None. New in version 2.3.


pop() raises a KeyError when no default value is given and the key is not found. New in version 2.3.




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