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Delete column from pandas DataFrame


Question

When deleting a column in a DataFrame I use:

del df['column_name']

And this works great. Why can't I use the following?

del df.column_name

Since it is possible to access the column/Series as df.column_name, I expected this to work.

2020/05/26
1
1435
5/26/2020 2:11:04 PM

Accepted Answer

As you've guessed, the right syntax is

del df['column_name']

It's difficult to make del df.column_name work simply as the result of syntactic limitations in Python. del df[name] gets translated to df.__delitem__(name) under the covers by Python.

2019/04/07
953
4/7/2019 10:01:11 PM


Use:

columns = ['Col1', 'Col2', ...]
df.drop(columns, inplace=True, axis=1)

This will delete one or more columns in-place. Note that inplace=True was added in pandas v0.13 and won't work on older versions. You'd have to assign the result back in that case:

df = df.drop(columns, axis=1)
2018/05/23

Drop by index

Delete first, second and fourth columns:

df.drop(df.columns[[0,1,3]], axis=1, inplace=True)

Delete first column:

df.drop(df.columns[[0]], axis=1, inplace=True)

There is an optional parameter inplace so that the original data can be modified without creating a copy.

Popped

Column selection, addition, deletion

Delete column column-name:

df.pop('column-name')

Examples:

df = DataFrame.from_items([('A', [1, 2, 3]), ('B', [4, 5, 6]), ('C', [7,8, 9])], orient='index', columns=['one', 'two', 'three'])

print df:

   one  two  three
A    1    2      3
B    4    5      6
C    7    8      9

df.drop(df.columns[[0]], axis=1, inplace=True) print df:

   two  three
A    2      3
B    5      6
C    8      9

three = df.pop('three') print df:

   two
A    2
B    5
C    8
2018/05/23

The actual question posed, missed by most answers here is:

Why can't I use del df.column_name?

At first we need to understand the problem, which requires us to dive into python magic methods.

As Wes points out in his answer del df['column'] maps to the python magic method df.__delitem__('column') which is implemented in pandas to drop the column

However, as pointed out in the link above about python magic methods:

In fact, __del__ should almost never be used because of the precarious circumstances under which it is called; use it with caution!

You could argue that del df['column_name'] should not be used or encouraged, and thereby del df.column_name should not even be considered.

However, in theory, del df.column_name could be implemeted to work in pandas using the magic method __delattr__. This does however introduce certain problems, problems which the del df['column_name'] implementation already has, but in lesser degree.

Example Problem

What if I define a column in a dataframe called "dtypes" or "columns".

Then assume I want to delete these columns.

del df.dtypes would make the __delattr__ method confused as if it should delete the "dtypes" attribute or the "dtypes" column.

Architectural questions behind this problem

  1. Is a dataframe a collection of columns?
  2. Is a dataframe a collection of rows?
  3. Is a column an attribute of a dataframe?

Pandas answers:

  1. Yes, in all ways
  2. No, but if you want it to be, you can use the .ix, .loc or .iloc methods.
  3. Maybe, do you want to read data? Then yes, unless the name of the attribute is already taken by another attribute belonging to the dataframe. Do you want to modify data? Then no.

TLDR;

You cannot do del df.column_name because pandas has a quite wildly grown architecture that needs to be reconsidered in order for this kind of cognitive dissonance not to occur to its users.

Protip:

Don't use df.column_name, It may be pretty, but it causes cognitive dissonance

Zen of Python quotes that fits in here:

There are multiple ways of deleting a column.

There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.

Columns are sometimes attributes but sometimes not.

Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.

Does del df.dtypes delete the dtypes attribute or the dtypes column?

In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.

2020/06/20

A nice addition is the ability to drop columns only if they exist. This way you can cover more use cases, and it will only drop the existing columns from the labels passed to it:

Simply add errors='ignore', for example.:

df.drop(['col_name_1', 'col_name_2', ..., 'col_name_N'], inplace=True, axis=1, errors='ignore')
  • This is new from pandas 0.16.1 onward. Documentation is here.
2018/05/23

from version 0.16.1 you can do

df.drop(['column_name'], axis = 1, inplace = True, errors = 'ignore')
2016/10/21