How to delete items from a dictionary while iterating over it?


Question

Is it legitimate to delete items from a dictionary in Python while iterating over it?

For example:

for k, v in mydict.iteritems():
   if k == val:
     del mydict[k]

The idea is to remove elements that don't meet a certain condition from the dictionary, instead of creating a new dictionary that's a subset of the one being iterated over.

Is this a good solution? Are there more elegant/efficient ways?

1
258
4/22/2015 7:47:32 PM

Accepted Answer

EDIT:

This answer will not work for Python3 and will give a RuntimeError.

RuntimeError: dictionary changed size during iteration.

This happens because mydict.keys() returns an iterator not a list. As pointed out in comments simply convert mydict.keys() to a list by list(mydict.keys()) and it should work.


A simple test in the console shows you cannot modify a dictionary while iterating over it:

>>> mydict = {'one': 1, 'two': 2, 'three': 3, 'four': 4}
>>> for k, v in mydict.iteritems():
...    if k == 'two':
...        del mydict[k]
...
------------------------------------------------------------
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<ipython console>", line 1, in <module>
RuntimeError: dictionary changed size during iteration

As stated in delnan's answer, deleting entries causes problems when the iterator tries to move onto the next entry. Instead, use the keys() method to get a list of the keys and work with that:

>>> for k in mydict.keys():
...    if k == 'two':
...        del mydict[k]
...
>>> mydict
{'four': 4, 'three': 3, 'one': 1}

If you need to delete based on the items value, use the items() method instead:

>>> for k, v in mydict.items():
...     if v == 3:
...         del mydict[k]
...
>>> mydict
{'four': 4, 'one': 1}
280
12/21/2018 6:36:52 AM

You could also do it in two steps:

remove = [k for k in mydict if k == val]
for k in remove: del mydict[k]

My favorite approach is usually to just make a new dict:

# Python 2.7 and 3.x
mydict = { k:v for k,v in mydict.items() if k!=val }
# before Python 2.7
mydict = dict((k,v) for k,v in mydict.iteritems() if k!=val)

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