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2-way dict with convenient slice syntax: d[65] = 'A' -> d[:'A'] == 65

Project description


bidict provides a bidirectional mapping data structure and related functionality to naturally work with one-to-one relations in Python.

Unlike alternative implementations, bidict builds on top of the dict API and supports the familiar __getitem__ syntax. It also supports a convenient slice syntax to express an inverse mapping:

>>> element_by_symbol = bidict({'H': 'hydrogen'})
>>> element_by_symbol['H']  # forward mapping works just like with dict
>>> element_by_symbol[:'hydrogen']  # use slice for the inverse mapping

Syntax hacks ftw.

Motivation & More Examples

Python’s built-in dict lets us associate unique keys with arbitrary values. Because keys must be hashable, values can be looked up by key in constant time. Different keys can map to the same value, but a single key cannot map to two different values. For instance, {-1: 1, 0: 0, 1: 1} is a dict with three unique keys and two unique values, because the keys -1 and 1 both map to 1. If you try to write its inverse {1: -1, 0: 0, 1: 1}, the dict that comes out has only two mappings, one for key 1 and one for key 0; since key 1 is not allowed to map to both -1 and 1, one of these mappings is discarded.

Sometimes the relation we’re modeling will only ever have a single key mapping to a single value, as in the relation of chemical elements and their symbols. This is called a one-to-one (or injective) mapping (see

In this case we can be sure that the inverse mapping has the same number of items as the forward mapping, and moreover that if key k maps to value v in the forward mapping, value v maps to key k in the inverse. It would be useful then to be able to look up keys by value in constant time in addition to being able to look up values by key. With the additional constraint that values must be hashable as well as keys, we can get constant-time forward and inverse lookups via convenient syntax with bidict.

Expanding on the previous example, anywhere the __getitem__ syntax can be used to reference a forward mapping, slice syntax can be used too:

>>> element_by_symbol['H'] = 'Hydrogen'
>>> element_by_symbol['H':]

Including setting and deleting items in either direction:

>>> element_by_symbol['He':] = 'helium'
>>> element_by_symbol[:'lithium'] = 'Li'
>>> del element_by_symbol['H':]
>>> del element_by_symbol[:'lithium']
>>> element_by_symbol
bidict({'He': 'helium'})

The rest of the MutableMapping interface is supported too:

>>> 'C' in element_by_symbol
>>> element_by_symbol.get('C', 'carbon')
>>> element_by_symbol.pop('He')
>>> element_by_symbol
>>> element_by_symbol.update(Hg='mercury')
>>> element_by_symbol
bidict({'Hg': 'mercury'})

You can also use the unary inverse operator ~ on a bidict to get the inverse mapping in constant time:

>>> ~element_by_symbol
bidict({'mercury': 'Hg'})

Inverse can be composed with other MutableMapping APIs at no extra cost:

>>> 'mercury' in ~element_by_symbol  # no more expensive than ``in element_by_symbol``
>>> (~element_by_symbol).pop('mercury')  # no more expensive than ``element_by_symbol.pop``

See the bidict class for more examples.

The inverted iterator is also provided in the spirit of the built-in function reversed. Pass in a mapping to get the inverse mapping, an iterable of pairs to get the pairs’ inverses, or any object implementing an __inverted__ method. See the inverted class for examples.

Note: It is intentional that the term “inverse” is used rather than “reverse”. Consider a collection of (k, v) pairs. Taking the reverse of the collection can only be done if it is ordered (i.e. a sequence), and reverses the order of the pairs in the collection, but each original (k, v) pair remains in the resulting collection. By contrast, taking the inverse of such a collection does not require an original ordering or say anything about the resulting ordering, but rather just replaces every (k, v) pair with the inverse pair (v, k).

The namedbidict class factory can be used to create a bidirectional mapping with customized names for the forward and the inverse mappings accessible via attributes. See the namedbidict function for examples.

The built-in htmlentitydefs module provides an example of where bidict could be used in the Python standard library instead of maintaining the two name2codepoint and codepoint2name dictionaries separately.


Because bidict is a bidirectional dict, values as well as keys must be hashable. Attempting to insert an unhashable value will result in an error:

>>> anagrams_by_alphagram = bidict({'opt': ['opt', 'pot', 'top']})
... # doctest: +ELLIPSIS
Traceback (most recent call last):
>>> bidict({'opt': ('opt', 'pot', 'top')})
bidict({'opt': ('opt', 'pot', 'top')})

When instantiating or updating a bidict, remember that mappings for like values with differing keys will be silently dropped (just as the dict literal {1: ‘one’, 1: ‘uno’} silently drops a mapping), to maintain bidirectionality:

>>> nils = bidict({'zero': 0, 'zilch': 0, 'zip': 0})
>>> len(nils)
>>> nils.update(nix=0, nada=0)
>>> len(nils)

When mapping the key of one existing mapping to the value of another (or vice versa), the two mappings silently collapse into one:

>>> b = bidict({1: 'one', 2: 'two'})
>>> b[1] = 'two'
>>> b
bidict({1: 'two'})
>>> b = bidict({1: 'one', 2: 'two'})
>>> b[:'two'] = 1
>>> b
bidict({1: 'two'})


Thanks to Terry Reedy for the idea for the slice syntax. Thanks to Raymond Hettinger for the idea for namedbidict and pointing out various caveats. Thanks to Francis Carr for the idea of storing the inverse bidict.

See the bidict module for further documentation.

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