What Is the Dictionary Data Type?


Larry Thompson

What Is the Dictionary Data Type?

In programming, a dictionary is a data type that allows you to store and retrieve data using key-value pairs. It is also known as an associative array, map, or hash table in different programming languages.

How Does a Dictionary Work?

A dictionary works by associating a unique key with a value. You can think of it as a real-life dictionary where words are the keys and their meanings are the values.

To create a dictionary in most programming languages, you use curly braces ({}) to enclose the key-value pairs. Each pair consists of a key followed by a colon (:) and then its corresponding value. The key-value pairs are separated by commas.

Here’s an example of a dictionary in Python:

    "apple": 5,
    "banana": 3,
    "orange": 7

In this example, “apple”, “banana”, and “orange” are the keys, and 5, 3, and 7 are their respective values.

Accessing Values in a Dictionary

To access the value associated with a specific key in a dictionary, you can use the key within square brackets ([]).

In Python:

fruit_stock = {
    "apple": 5,
    "banana": 3,
    "orange": 7

print(fruit_stock["apple"]) # Output: 5
print(fruit_stock["orange"]) # Output: 7

Modifying and Adding Key-Value Pairs

You can modify the value associated with an existing key or add new key-value pairs to a dictionary.

fruit_stock[“apple”] = 10 # Modifying value
fruit_stock[“grapes”] = 15 # Adding new key-value pair

print(fruit_stock) # Output: {‘apple’: 10, ‘banana’: 3, ‘orange’: 7, ‘grapes’: 15}

Dictionary Methods

In addition to accessing and modifying values, dictionaries provide various methods to manipulate and retrieve information about the data they store.


The keys() method returns a list of all the keys in a dictionary.

print(fruit_stock.keys()) # Output: dict_keys([‘apple’, ‘banana’, ‘orange’])


The values() method returns a list of all the values in a dictionary.values()) # Output: dict_values([5, 3, 7])


The items() method returns a list of tuples containing all the key-value pairs in a dictionary.items()) # Output: dict_items([(‘apple’, 5), (‘banana’, 3), (‘orange’, 7)])


The dictionary data type is a powerful tool for organizing and accessing data using key-value pairs. It allows you to efficiently store and retrieve information, making it an essential component in many programming tasks.

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