/pandas 0.20

Indexing and Selecting Data

The axis labeling information in pandas objects serves many purposes:

  • Identifies data (i.e. provides metadata) using known indicators, important for analysis, visualization, and interactive console display
  • Enables automatic and explicit data alignment
  • Allows intuitive getting and setting of subsets of the data set

In this section, we will focus on the final point: namely, how to slice, dice, and generally get and set subsets of pandas objects. The primary focus will be on Series and DataFrame as they have received more development attention in this area. Expect more work to be invested in higher-dimensional data structures (including Panel) in the future, especially in label-based advanced indexing.


The Python and NumPy indexing operators [] and attribute operator . provide quick and easy access to pandas data structures across a wide range of use cases. This makes interactive work intuitive, as there’s little new to learn if you already know how to deal with Python dictionaries and NumPy arrays. However, since the type of the data to be accessed isn’t known in advance, directly using standard operators has some optimization limits. For production code, we recommended that you take advantage of the optimized pandas data access methods exposed in this chapter.


Whether a copy or a reference is returned for a setting operation, may depend on the context. This is sometimes called chained assignment and should be avoided. See Returning a View versus Copy


In 0.15.0 Index has internally been refactored to no longer subclass ndarray but instead subclass PandasObject, similarly to the rest of the pandas objects. This should be a transparent change with only very limited API implications (See the Internal Refactoring)


Indexing on an integer-based Index with floats has been clarified in 0.18.0, for a summary of the changes, see here.

See the MultiIndex / Advanced Indexing for MultiIndex and more advanced indexing documentation.

See the cookbook for some advanced strategies

Different Choices for Indexing

New in version 0.11.0.

Object selection has had a number of user-requested additions in order to support more explicit location based indexing. Pandas now supports three types of multi-axis indexing.

  • .loc is primarily label based, but may also be used with a boolean array. .loc will raise KeyError when the items are not found. Allowed inputs are:

    • A single label, e.g. 5 or 'a', (note that 5 is interpreted as a label of the index. This use is not an integer position along the index)
    • A list or array of labels ['a', 'b', 'c']
    • A slice object with labels 'a':'f', (note that contrary to usual python slices, both the start and the stop are included!)
    • A boolean array
    • A callable function with one argument (the calling Series, DataFrame or Panel) and that returns valid output for indexing (one of the above)

      New in version 0.18.1.

    See more at Selection by Label

  • .iloc is primarily integer position based (from 0 to length-1 of the axis), but may also be used with a boolean array. .iloc will raise IndexError if a requested indexer is out-of-bounds, except slice indexers which allow out-of-bounds indexing. (this conforms with python/numpy slice semantics). Allowed inputs are:

    • An integer e.g. 5
    • A list or array of integers [4, 3, 0]
    • A slice object with ints 1:7
    • A boolean array
    • A callable function with one argument (the calling Series, DataFrame or Panel) and that returns valid output for indexing (one of the above)

      New in version 0.18.1.

    See more at Selection by Position

    See more at Advanced Indexing and Advanced Hierarchical.

  • .loc, .iloc, and also [] indexing can accept a callable as indexer. See more at Selection By Callable.

Getting values from an object with multi-axes selection uses the following notation (using .loc as an example, but applies to .iloc as well). Any of the axes accessors may be the null slice :. Axes left out of the specification are assumed to be :. (e.g. p.loc['a'] is equiv to p.loc['a', :, :])

Object Type Indexers
Series s.loc[indexer]
DataFrame df.loc[row_indexer,column_indexer]
Panel p.loc[item_indexer,major_indexer,minor_indexer]


As mentioned when introducing the data structures in the last section, the primary function of indexing with [] (a.k.a. __getitem__ for those familiar with implementing class behavior in Python) is selecting out lower-dimensional slices. Thus,

Object Type Selection Return Value Type
Series series[label] scalar value
DataFrame frame[colname] Series corresponding to colname
Panel panel[itemname] DataFrame corresponding to the itemname

Here we construct a simple time series data set to use for illustrating the indexing functionality:

In [1]: dates = pd.date_range('1/1/2000', periods=8)

In [2]: df = pd.DataFrame(np.random.randn(8, 4), index=dates, columns=['A', 'B', 'C', 'D'])

In [3]: df
                   A         B         C         D
2000-01-01  0.469112 -0.282863 -1.509059 -1.135632
2000-01-02  1.212112 -0.173215  0.119209 -1.044236
2000-01-03 -0.861849 -2.104569 -0.494929  1.071804
2000-01-04  0.721555 -0.706771 -1.039575  0.271860
2000-01-05 -0.424972  0.567020  0.276232 -1.087401
2000-01-06 -0.673690  0.113648 -1.478427  0.524988
2000-01-07  0.404705  0.577046 -1.715002 -1.039268
2000-01-08 -0.370647 -1.157892 -1.344312  0.844885

In [4]: panel = pd.Panel({'one' : df, 'two' : df - df.mean()})

In [5]: panel
<class 'pandas.core.panel.Panel'>
Dimensions: 2 (items) x 8 (major_axis) x 4 (minor_axis)
Items axis: one to two
Major_axis axis: 2000-01-01 00:00:00 to 2000-01-08 00:00:00
Minor_axis axis: A to D


None of the indexing functionality is time series specific unless specifically stated.

Thus, as per above, we have the most basic indexing using []:

In [6]: s = df['A']

In [7]: s[dates[5]]
Out[7]: -0.67368970808837059

In [8]: panel['two']

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Licensed under the 3-clause BSD License.