Is it ok to use dashes in Python files when trying to import them?


Basically when I have a python file like:

and use:

import (python-code)

the interpreter gives me syntax error.

Any ideas on how to fix it? Are dashes illegal in python file names?

Asked By: Joan Venge



The problem is that python-code is not an identifier. The parser sees this as python minus code. Of course this won’t do what you’re asking. You will need to use a filename that is also a valid python identifier. Try replacing the - with an underscore.

You should check out PEP 8, the Style Guide for Python Code:

Package and Module Names Modules should have short, all-lowercase names. Underscores can be used in the module name if it improves readability. Python packages should also have short, all-lowercase names, although the use of underscores is discouraged.

Since module names are mapped to file names, and some file systems are case insensitive and truncate long names, it is important that module names be chosen to be fairly short — this won’t be a problem on Unix, but it may be a problem when the code is transported to older Mac or Windows versions, or DOS.

In other words: rename your file 🙂

Answered By: Paolo Bergantino

You could probably import it through some __import__ hack, but if you don’t already know how, you shouldn’t. Python module names should be valid variable names (“identifiers”) — that means if you have a module foo_bar, you can use it from within Python (print foo_bar). You wouldn’t be able to do so with a weird name (print foo-bar -> syntax error).

Answered By: John Millikin

One other thing to note in your code is that import is not a function. So import(python-code) should be import python-code which, as some have already mentioned, is interpreted as “import python minus code”, not what you intended. If you really need to import a file with a dash in its name, you can do the following::

python_code = __import__('python-code')

But, as also mentioned above, this is not really recommended. You should change the filename if it’s something you control.

Answered By: Rick Copeland


Dashes are not illegal but you should not use them for 3 reasons:

  1. You need special syntax to import files with dashes
  2. Nobody expects a module name with a dash
  3. It’s against the recommendations of the Python Style Guide

If you definitely need to import a file name with a dash the special syntax is this:

module_name = __import__('module-name')

Curious about why we need special syntax?

The reason for the special syntax is that when you write import somename you’re creating a module object with identifier somename (so you can later use it with e.g. somename.funcname). Of course module-name is not a valid identifier and hence the special syntax that gives a valid one.

You don’t get why module-name is not valid identifier?

Don’t worry — I didn’t either. Here’s a tip to help you: Look at this python line: x=var1-var2. Do you see a subtraction on the right side of the assignment or a variable name with a dash?


Nothing original in my answer except including what I considered to be the most relevant bits of information from all other answers in one place

Answered By: ndemou

Although proper file naming is the best course, if python-code is not under our control, a hack using __import__ is better than copying, renaming, or otherwise messing around with other authors’ code. However, I tried and it didn’t work unless I renamed the file adding the .py extension. After looking at the doc to derive how to get a description for .py, I ended up with this:

import imp

    python_code_file = open("python-code")
    python_code = imp.load_module('python_code', python_code_file, './python-code', ('.py', 'U', 1))

It created a new file python-codec on the first run.

Answered By: Ale

On Python 3 use import_module:

from importlib import import_module
python_code = import_module('python-code')

More generally,

Answered By: e18r
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