Is Dictionary a Built in Data Type?


Heather Bennett

In Python, a dictionary is a built-in data type that allows you to store and retrieve key-value pairs. It is a versatile and powerful data structure that can be used to solve a wide range of problems. Let’s dive deeper into what makes the dictionary such an essential tool in Python programming.

The Basics of Dictionaries

A dictionary is an unordered collection of key-value pairs, where each key is unique within the dictionary. The keys are used to access the corresponding values, much like looking up words in a real-life dictionary.

To create a dictionary in Python, you enclose the key-value pairs in curly braces ({}) and separate them with colons (:). Here’s an example:

my_dict = {'name': 'John', 'age': 30, 'city': 'New York'}

In this example, we have a dictionary called my_dict with three key-value pairs: ‘name’ is associated with the value ‘John’, ‘age’ is associated with the value 30, and ‘city’ is associated with the value ‘New York’.

Dictionary Methods

Dictionaries come equipped with various methods that allow you to perform common operations. Here are some of the most commonly used methods:

  • keys(): Returns a list of all the keys in the dictionary.
  • values(): Returns a list of all the values in the dictionary.
  • items(): Returns a list of all the key-value pairs in the dictionary.
  • get(key): Returns the value associated with the specified key. If the key does not exist, it returns a default value (None by default).
  • update(other_dict): Updates the dictionary with the key-value pairs from another dictionary.

These methods provide powerful functionality that simplifies working with dictionaries and makes them even more convenient to use.

Dictionary vs. Other Data Types

While dictionaries are often compared to lists and tuples, they have distinct differences that make them suitable for different scenarios. Unlike lists and tuples, which are ordered collections of values, dictionaries are unordered and accessed by keys instead of indices.

Dictionaries are particularly useful when you need to quickly retrieve values based on specific keys. They provide constant-time complexity for accessing elements, regardless of the size of the dictionary. This makes dictionaries an excellent choice for tasks such as counting occurrences or creating lookup tables.


In conclusion, a dictionary is indeed a built-in data type in Python. It offers a flexible way to store and retrieve key-value pairs efficiently. With their powerful methods and unique characteristics, dictionaries play a crucial role in various programming tasks.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced developer, understanding how to use dictionaries effectively will undoubtedly enhance your Python programming skills and allow you to solve complex problems with ease.

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