Transpose/Unzip Function (inverse of zip)?


I have a list of 2-item tuples and I'd like to convert them to 2 lists where the first contains the first item in each tuple and the second list holds the second item.

For example:

original = [('a', 1), ('b', 2), ('c', 3), ('d', 4)]
# and I want to become...
result = (['a', 'b', 'c', 'd'], [1, 2, 3, 4])

Is there a builtin function that does that?

3/27/2019 12:23:53 PM

Accepted Answer

zip is its own inverse! Provided you use the special * operator.

>>> zip(*[('a', 1), ('b', 2), ('c', 3), ('d', 4)])
[('a', 'b', 'c', 'd'), (1, 2, 3, 4)]

The way this works is by calling zip with the arguments:

zip(('a', 1), ('b', 2), ('c', 3), ('d', 4))

… except the arguments are passed to zip directly (after being converted to a tuple), so there's no need to worry about the number of arguments getting too big.

6/13/2017 12:09:24 AM

You could also do

result = ([ a for a,b in original ], [ b for a,b in original ])

It should scale better. Especially if Python makes good on not expanding the list comprehensions unless needed.

(Incidentally, it makes a 2-tuple (pair) of lists, rather than a list of tuples, like zip does.)

If generators instead of actual lists are ok, this would do that:

result = (( a for a,b in original ), ( b for a,b in original ))

The generators don't munch through the list until you ask for each element, but on the other hand, they do keep references to the original list.

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