What Is a Python Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

A data structure is a way of organizing and storing data in a computer so that it can be efficiently used. In Python, there are several built-in data structures that can be used to store and manipulate data. These data structures are the building blocks of any Python program and play a crucial role in solving problems.

Python Lists

One of the most commonly used data structures in Python is a list. A list is an ordered collection of items, where each item has an index associated with it.

Lists are mutable, which means they can be changed after they are created. To create a list in Python, you can use square brackets [] and separate the elements with commas.

For example:

my_list = [1, 2, 3, "apple", "banana"]

You can access individual elements of a list using their index. In Python, indexing starts from 0.

print(my_list[0])  # Output: 1
print(my_list[3])  # Output: apple


A tuple is another type of sequence that is similar to a list but immutable. Once created, you cannot change its elements. Tuples are represented by parentheses () or without any delimiters.

my_tuple = (1, 2, 3)
print(my_tuple)  # Output: (1, 2, 3)


A set is an unordered collection of unique elements. It does not allow duplicate values and is mutable.

my_set = {1, 2, 3}
print(my_set)  # Output: {1, 2, 3}

Python sets also support mathematical set operations like union, intersection, and difference.


A dictionary is an unordered collection of key-value pairs. Each key is unique and associated with a value. Dictionaries are mutable and are represented using curly braces {}.

my_dict = {"name": "John", "age": 25}
print(my_dict)  # Output: {'name': 'John', 'age': 25}

You can access the values in a dictionary using their keys.

print(my_dict["name"])  # Output: John
print(my_dict["age"])   # Output: 25

Sets vs. Lists vs. Tuples vs. Dictionaries

  • Sets: Unordered collection of unique elements.
  • Lists: Ordered collection of elements with index access.
  • Tuples: Ordered collection of elements that cannot be changed.
  • Dictionaries: Unordered collection of key-value pairs.

In Summary

Data structures in Python help organize and store data effectively. They include lists, tuples, sets, and dictionaries. Understanding these data structures is crucial for any Python programmer as they provide powerful tools for solving problems efficiently.

To recap:

  • A List is an ordered and mutable collection of items.
  • A Tuple is an ordered and immutable collection of items.
  • A Set is an unordered and mutable collection of unique elements.
  • A Dictionary is an unordered collection of key-value pairs.

By utilizing these Python data structures, you can effectively manage and manipulate data in your programs, ultimately leading to more efficient and robust solutions.

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