What is the purpose of the single underscore "_" variable in Python?

Question:

What is the meaning of _ after for in this code?

if tbh.bag:
    n = 0
    for _ in tbh.bag.atom_set():
        n += 1
Asked By: alwbtc

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Answers:

It’s just a variable name, and it’s conventional in python to use _ for throwaway variables. It just indicates that the loop variable isn’t actually used.

Answered By: gsteff

_ has 3 main conventional uses in Python:

  1. To hold the result of the last executed expression in an interactive
    interpreter session (see docs). This precedent was set by the standard CPython
    interpreter, and other interpreters have followed suit

  2. For translation lookup in i18n (see the
    gettext
    documentation for example), as in code like

    raise forms.ValidationError(_("Please enter a correct username"))
    
  3. As a general purpose "throwaway" variable name:

    1. To indicate that part
      of a function result is being deliberately ignored (Conceptually, it is being discarded.), as in code like:

      label, has_label, _ = text.partition(':')
      
    2. As part of a function definition (using either def or lambda), where
      the signature is fixed (e.g. by a callback or parent class API), but
      this particular function implementation doesn’t need all of the
      parameters, as in code like:

      def callback(_):
          return True
      

      [For a long time this answer didn’t list this use case, but it came up often enough, as noted here, to be worth listing explicitly.]

    This use case can conflict with the translation lookup use case, so it is necessary to avoid using _ as a throwaway variable in any code block that also uses it for i18n translation (many folks prefer a double-underscore, __, as their throwaway variable for exactly this reason).

    Linters often recognize this use case. For example year, month, day = date() will raise a lint warning if day is not used later in the code. The fix, if day is truly not needed, is to write year, month, _ = date(). Same with lambda functions, lambda arg: 1.0 creates a function requiring one argument but not using it, which will be caught by lint. The fix is to write lambda _: 1.0. An unused variable is often hiding a bug/typo (e.g. set day but use dya in the next line).

    The pattern matching feature added in Python 3.10 elevated this usage from "convention" to "language syntax" where match statements are concerned: in match cases, _ is a wildcard pattern, and the runtime doesn’t even bind a value to the symbol in that case.

    For other use cases, remember that _ is still a valid variable name, and hence will still keep objects alive. In cases where this is undesirable (e.g. to release memory or external resources) an explicit del name call will both satisfy linters that the name is being used, and promptly clear the reference to the object.

Answered By: ncoghlan

Underscore _ is considered as “I don’t Care” or “Throwaway” variable in Python

  • The python interpreter stores the last expression value to the special variable called _.

    >>> 10 
    10
    
    >>> _ 
    10
    
    >>> _ * 3 
    30
    
  • The underscore _ is also used for ignoring the specific values. If you don’t need the specific values or the values are not used, just assign the values to underscore.

    Ignore a value when unpacking

    x, _, y = (1, 2, 3)
    
    >>> x
    1
    
    >>> y 
    3
    

    Ignore the index

    for _ in range(10):     
        do_something()
    
Answered By: Ashish25

There are 5 cases for using the underscore in Python.

  1. For storing the value of last expression in interpreter.

  2. For ignoring the specific values. (so-called “I don’t care”)

  3. To give special meanings and functions to name of variables or functions.

  4. To use as ‘internationalization (i18n)’ or ‘localization (l10n)’ functions.

  5. To separate the digits of number literal value.

Here is a nice article with examples by mingrammer.

Answered By: Reck

As far as the Python languages is concerned, _ generally has no special meaning. It is a valid identifier just like _foo, foo_ or _f_o_o_.
The only exception are match statements since Python 3.10:

In a case pattern within a match statement, _ is a soft keyword that denotes a wildcard. source

Otherwise, any special meaning of _ is purely by convention. Several cases are common:

  • A dummy name when a variable is not intended to be used, but a name is required by syntax/semantics.

      # iteration disregarding content
      sum(1 for _ in some_iterable)
      # unpacking disregarding specific elements
      head, *_ = values
      # function disregarding its argument
      def callback(_): return True
    
  • Many REPLs/shells store the result of the last top-level expression to builtins._.

    The special identifier _ is used in the interactive interpreter to store the result of the last evaluation; it is stored in the builtins module. When not in interactive mode, _ has no special meaning and is not defined. [source]

    Due to the way names are looked up, unless shadowed by a global or local _ definition the bare _ refers to builtins._ .

      >>> 42
      42
      >>> f'the last answer is {_}'
      'the last answer is 42'
      >>> _
      'the last answer is 42'
      >>> _ = 4  # shadow ``builtins._`` with global ``_``
      >>> 23
      23
      >>> _
      4
    

    Note: Some shells such as ipython do not assign to builtins._ but special-case _.

  • In the context internationalization and localization, _ is used as an alias for the primary translation function.

    gettext.gettext(message)

    Return the localized translation of message, based on the current global domain, language, and locale directory. This function is usually aliased as _() in the local namespace (see examples below).

Answered By: MisterMiyagi