What Data Structure Is a Python List?


Scott Campbell

A Python list is a built-in data structure that allows you to store and manipulate a collection of items. It is a versatile data structure that can hold elements of different types, such as integers, strings, or even other lists. Lists are mutable, which means you can modify their content by adding, removing, or modifying elements.

Creating a Python List

To create a list in Python, you can use square brackets to define the list and separate the elements with commas. Here’s an example:

my_list = [1, 2, 3, 'four', 'five']

In this example, my_list is a list that contains five elements: three integers and two strings.

Accessing List Elements

To access individual elements within a list, you can use indexing. The index starts at 0 for the first element and increments by 1 for each subsequent element. For example:

first_element = my_list[0]

In this case, first_element will be assigned the value 1.

Slicing Lists

You can also extract a portion of a list using slicing. Slicing allows you to specify a range of indices to retrieve multiple elements at once. For example:

sliced_list = my_list[1:4]

This will create a new list called sliced_list containing the elements ‘2’, ‘3’, and ‘four’ from the original list.

Modifying List Elements

Lists are mutable, which means you can change their content by assigning new values to specific indices. For example:

my_list[2] = 'three'

This will replace the third element of my_list with the string ‘three’.

List Methods

Python provides several built-in methods that allow you to manipulate lists:

  • append(): Adds an element to the end of the list.
  • insert(): Inserts an element at a specific index.
  • remove(): Removes the first occurrence of a specified element.
  • pop(): Removes and returns an element at a specified index.
  • sort(): Sorts the list in ascending order.
  • reverse(): Reverses the order of the elements in the list.

List Operations

In addition to methods, there are several common operations you can perform on lists:

  • Concatenation (+): Combines two lists into a single list.
  • Multiplication (*): Creates a new list by repeating an existing list a specified number of times.
  • Length (len()): Returns the number of elements in a list.


A Python list is a powerful data structure that allows you to store and manipulate collections of items. It provides various methods and operations to assist you in working with lists effectively. By understanding the fundamentals of lists, you can leverage this data structure to solve a wide range of programming problems.

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