What is the purpose of the single underscore "_" variable in Python?


What is the meaning of _ after for in this code?

if tbh.bag:
   n = 0
   for _ in tbh.bag.atom_set():
      n += 1
2/22/2019 4:44:19 AM

Accepted Answer

_ has 4 main conventional uses in Python:

  1. To hold the result of the last executed expression(/statement) in an interactive interpreter session. This precedent was set by the standard CPython interpreter, and other interpreters have followed suit
  2. For translation lookup in i18n (see the gettext documentation for example), as in code like: raise forms.ValidationError(_("Please enter a correct username"))
  3. As a general purpose "throwaway" variable name to indicate that part of a function result is being deliberately ignored (Conceptually, it is being discarded.), as in code like: label, has_label, _ = text.partition(':').
  4. As part of a function definition (using either def or lambda), where the signature is fixed (e.g. by a callback or parent class API), but this particular function implementation doesn't need all of the parameters, as in code like: callback = lambda _: True

(For a long time this answer only listed the first three use cases, but the fourth case came up often enough, as noted here, to be worth listing explicitly)

The latter "throwaway variable or parameter name" uses cases can conflict with the translation lookup use case, so it is necessary to avoid using _ as a throwaway variable in any code block that also uses it for i18n translation (many folks prefer a double-underscore, __, as their throwaway variable for exactly this reason).

8/7/2019 4:16:32 AM

It's just a variable name, and it's conventional in python to use _ for throwaway variables. It just indicates that the loop variable isn't actually used.

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