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How to randomly select an item from a list?


Question

Assume I have the following list:

foo = ['a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 'e']

What is the simplest way to retrieve an item at random from this list?

2017/05/04
1
1803
5/4/2017 8:40:51 PM

Accepted Answer

Use random.choice()

import random

foo = ['a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 'e']
print(random.choice(foo))

For cryptographically secure random choices (e.g. for generating a passphrase from a wordlist) use secrets.choice()

import secrets

foo = ['battery', 'correct', 'horse', 'staple']
print(secrets.choice(foo))

secrets is new in Python 3.6, on older versions of Python you can use the random.SystemRandom class:

import random

secure_random = random.SystemRandom()
print(secure_random.choice(foo))
2019/12/21
2736
12/21/2019 4:00:08 AM

If you want to randomly select more than one item from a list, or select an item from a set, I'd recommend using random.sample instead.

import random
group_of_items = {1, 2, 3, 4}               # a sequence or set will work here.
num_to_select = 2                           # set the number to select here.
list_of_random_items = random.sample(group_of_items, num_to_select)
first_random_item = list_of_random_items[0]
second_random_item = list_of_random_items[1] 

If you're only pulling a single item from a list though, choice is less clunky, as using sample would have the syntax random.sample(some_list, 1)[0] instead of random.choice(some_list).

Unfortunately though, choice only works for a single output from sequences (such as lists or tuples). Though random.choice(tuple(some_set)) may be an option for getting a single item from a set.

EDIT: Using Secrets

As many have pointed out, if you require more secure pseudorandom samples, you should use the secrets module:

import secrets                              # imports secure module.
secure_random = secrets.SystemRandom()      # creates a secure random object.
group_of_items = {1, 2, 3, 4}               # a sequence or set will work here.
num_to_select = 2                           # set the number to select here.
list_of_random_items = secure_random.sample(group_of_items, num_to_select)
first_random_item = list_of_random_items[0]
second_random_item = list_of_random_items[1]

EDIT: Pythonic One-Liner

If you want a more pythonic one-liner for selecting multiple items, you can use unpacking.

import random
first_random_item, second_random_item = random.sample(group_of_items, 2)
2020/05/07

If you also need the index, use random.randrange

from random import randrange
random_index = randrange(len(foo))
print(foo[random_index])
2018/08/18

As of Python 3.6 you can use the secrets module, which is preferable to the random module for cryptography or security uses.

To print a random element from a list:

import secrets
foo = ['a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 'e']
print(secrets.choice(foo))

To print a random index:

print(secrets.randbelow(len(foo)))

For details, see PEP 506.

2016/12/06

I propose a script for removing randomly picked up items off a list until it is empty:

Maintain a set and remove randomly picked up element (with choice) until list is empty.

s=set(range(1,6))
import random

while len(s)>0:
  s.remove(random.choice(list(s)))
  print(s)

Three runs give three different answers:

>>> 
set([1, 3, 4, 5])
set([3, 4, 5])
set([3, 4])
set([4])
set([])
>>> 
set([1, 2, 3, 5])
set([2, 3, 5])
set([2, 3])
set([2])
set([])

>>> 
set([1, 2, 3, 5])
set([1, 2, 3])
set([1, 2])
set([1])
set([])
2014/06/24

foo = ['a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 'e']
number_of_samples = 1

In python 2:

random_items = random.sample(population=foo, k=number_of_samples)

In python 3:

random_items = random.choices(population=foo, k=number_of_samples)
2017/11/29

Source: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/306400
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