Python Dictionary (Dict) Tutorial – Things YOU MUST Know

  • Python Dictionary is a set of key-value pairs. The keys are unique in a dictionary.
  • A dictionary is an object of class dict. It’s an unordered collection.
  • Dictionary keys must be immutable. So we can use string, numbers, tuple as dict key.
  • If the tuple contains any mutable objects, we can’t use it as a dictionary key.
  • We can’t use a List as a Dictionary key because they can be modified.
  • A dictionary is created using a pair of braces. The key-value pairs are separated using a comma.
  • The dictionary keys and values can be of any types. They can also be None.
  • The key and its value are separated using a colon.
  • Dictionary records are indexed using the key.

Creating a Dictionary

Let’s look at a simple example to create a dictionary and print it.

>>> fruits_dict = {"1": "Apple", "2": "Banana", 3: "Orange", None: "NA"}
>>> print(fruits_dict)
{'1': 'Apple', '2': 'Banana', 3: 'Orange', None: 'NA'}
>>> type(fruits_dict)
<class 'dict'>

Notice that the type of dictionary class is dict and the keys-values are of different types too.

Creating A Python Dictionary
Creating a Python Dictionary

Accessing Dictionary Values

We can access a dictionary value using the key name in the square brackets.

>>> fruits_dict["1"]
>>> fruits_dict["2"]
>>> fruits_dict[3]
>>> fruits_dict[None]
Accessing Dictionary Values
Accessing Dictionary Values

If the key doesn’t exist, this way to access dictionary element will raise KeyError. It’s better to use the get() method that returns None if the key is not present.

Adding/Updating Dictionary Value

We can add or update dictionary elements using the assignment operator. If the key doesn’t exist in the dictionary, the key-value pair gets added to the dictionary. Otherwise, the value is updated with the new value.

fruits_dict = {"1": "Apple", "2": "Banana"}

print(f'Original Dictionary = {fruits_dict}')

# insert
fruits_dict["3"] = "Orange"

# update
fruits_dict["1"] = "Kiwi"

print(f'Updated Dictionary = {fruits_dict}')
Adding Updating Python Dictionary Items
Adding Updating Python Dictionary Items

Deleting Dictionary Elements

We can use the del keyword to delete a dictionary key-value pair. If we use del keyword with the dictionary, the complete dictionary will be deleted.

>>> my_dict = {1:"1", 2:"2"}
>>> del my_dict[1]
>>> print(my_dict)
{2: '2'}
>>> del my_dict
>>> print(my_dict)
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
NameError: name 'my_dict' is not defined

Iterating over Dictionary using for loop

We can iterate over a dictionary using the for loop. There are many ways to use for loop with a dictionary.

1. Loop through key-value pairs using items() function

fruits_dict = {"1": "Apple", "2": "Banana", "3": "Orange"}

for key, value in fruits_dict.items():



2. Loop through Dictionary Keys

fruits_dict = {"1": "Apple", "2": "Banana", "3": "Orange"}

for key in fruits_dict:



3. Loop through Dictionary Values using values() function

We can use values() function to get the values and then iterate over it.

fruits_dict = {"1": "Apple", "2": "Banana", "3": "Orange"}

for value in fruits_dict.values():



Check if the key exists in the Dictionary

We can use “in” and “not in” keywords with the dictionary.

fruits_dict = {"1": "Apple", "2": "Banana", "3": "Orange"}

if "3" in fruits_dict:
    print(f'Key "3" is present in the dictionary and its value is {fruits_dict["3"]}')

if "10" not in fruits_dict:
    print("Key '10' doesn't exists in the dictionary")

Length of Dictionary

We can use len() function to find out the length or size of the dictionary.

>>> fruits_dict = {"1": "Apple", "2": "Banana", "3": "Orange"}
>>> print(f'Dictionary length is {len(fruits_dict)}')
Dictionary length is 3

Python dict() Constructor

We can use the built-in dict() constructor to create a dictionary object.

>>> empty_dict = dict()
>>> empty_dict
>>> my_dict = dict(id=1, name="Pankaj", skill="Python")
>>> my_dict
{'id': 1, 'name': 'Pankaj', 'skill': 'Python'}

Python Dictionary Methods

Python dict class has many methods. Let’s look into some of the important dictionary methods.

1. values()

This method returns an object that contains the values from the dictionary. The type of returned object is ‘dict_values’ and we can iterate over it to perform some operation on the dictionary values.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}

values = num_dict.values()
print(f'Dictionary values are {values} and its type is {type(values)}')

for v in values:
    print(v, end=" ")
Python Dictionary Values
Python Dictionary Values

2. items()

This method provides a set-like view of Dictionary items. It’s mostly used to unpack dictionary key-value pair to different values and then iterate over them.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}

items = num_dict.items()


for k, v in items:  # unpacking
    print(k, v)


dict_items([(1, 'one'), (2, 'two'), (3, 'three')])
<class 'dict_items'>
1 one
2 two
3 three

3. pop(key[,default])

This method removes the specified key from the dictionary and returns the corresponding value. If the key is not found, the optional default value is returned. If the key is not found and the default value is not given, KeyError is raised.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}

value = num_dict.pop(1)

print(f'Updated Dictionary = {num_dict} and the removed value = {value}')

value = num_dict.pop(1, "NA")
print(f'Updated Dictionary = {num_dict} and the removed value = {value}')

    value = num_dict.pop(1)
except KeyError as ke:
    print("Key Not Found: 1")

We are using a try-except block to catch KeyError and print the error message.

4. copy()

This function returns a shallow copy of the dictionary.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}

num_dict_copy = num_dict.copy()


num_dict[4] = "four"
num_dict_copy[5] = "five"



{1: 'one', 2: 'two', 3: 'three'}
{1: 'one', 2: 'two', 3: 'three'}
{1: 'one', 2: 'two', 3: 'three', 4: 'four'}
{1: 'one', 2: 'two', 3: 'three', 5: 'five'}

5. clear()

This method removes all the items from the dictionary. It’s similar to assigning the variable to an empty dictionary.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}

num_dict.clear()  # same as num_dict = {}


6. fromKeys(iterable, value)

This static method creates a new dictionary with the keys from the iterable and the values set to the value provided. If the value is not given, the values are set to None.

seq = (1, 3)
sub_dict = dict.fromkeys(seq)

sub_dict = dict.fromkeys([1, 2], "NA")

sub_dict = dict.fromkeys("15", "Hello")


{1: None, 3: None}
{1: 'NA', 2: 'NA'}
{'1': 'Hello', '5': 'Hello'}

7. get(key[,default])

This method returns the value for the key. If the key is not found, the optional default value is returned. If the key is not found and the default value is not provided, None is returned.

>>> num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}
>>> num_dict.get(1)
>>> num_dict.get(10, "ten")
>>> num_dict.get(10)
>>> print(num_dict.get(10))

8. keys()

This function returns a set-like object that provides a view of dictionary keys.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}

keys = num_dict.keys()


for k in keys:
    print(k, num_dict[k])


dict_keys([1, 2, 3])
<class 'dict_keys'>
1 one
2 two
3 three

9. popitem()

This method removes and returns some dictionary item as key-value tuple. If the dictionary is empty, KeyError is raised. We can use this function with a while loop to process dictionary items in random order.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three", 0: "zero"}

while len(num_dict) != 0:
    item = num_dict.popitem()


(0, 'zero')
(3, 'three')
(2, 'two')
(1, 'one')

10. setdefault(key[,default])

This method is used to add a key to the dictionary if and only if it’s not present in the dictionary. This method sets the key value to the default value provided, otherwise None.

The method returns the value for key if it’s present in the dictionary, otherwise returns the default value.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}

# new key
value = num_dict.setdefault(4, "NA")
print(f'Updated Dictionary = {num_dict} and the returned value = {value}')

# new key with no default
value = num_dict.setdefault(5)
print(f'Updated Dictionary = {num_dict} and the returned value = {value}')

# existing key, no effect on the dict
value = num_dict.setdefault(1, "ONE")
print(f'Updated Dictionary = {num_dict} and the returned value = {value}')


Updated Dictionary = {1: 'one', 2: 'two', 3: 'three', 4: 'NA'} and the returned value = NA
Updated Dictionary = {1: 'one', 2: 'two', 3: 'three', 4: 'NA', 5: None} and the returned value = None
Updated Dictionary = {1: 'one', 2: 'two', 3: 'three', 4: 'NA', 5: None} and the returned value = one

11. update(dict)

This method is used to update the dictionary items from the given dictionary. If the given dictionary key is not found, it gets added to the dictionary. If the key is found, the value gets updated.

num_dict = {1: "one", 2: "two", 3: "three"}
dict1 = {1: "ONE", 2: "TWO", 5: "FIVE"}

# update from another dict

Output: {1: 'ONE', 2: 'TWO', 3: 'three', 5: 'FIVE'}


Python Dictionary is a map-like collection to store key-value pairs. The items in the dictionary are accessed via key-based index. We can update, add, and delete dictionary items easily. There are various ways to use for loop to iterate over the dictionary keys, values, or items.