Paradigmmulti-paradigm: object-oriented, imperative, functional, procedural, reflective
Designed byGuido van Rossum
DeveloperPython Software Foundation
First appeared20 February 1991; 33 years ago (1991-02-20)[1]
Stable release
3.5.2 / 27 June 2016; 7 years ago (2016-06-27)[2]
2.7.12 / 28 June 2016; 7 years ago (2016-06-28)[3]
Preview release
3.6.0a3 / July 2016; 7 years ago (2016-07)[4]
Typing disciplineduck, dynamic, strong, gradual (as of Python 3.5)[5]
LicensePython Software Foundation License
Filename, .pyc, .pyd, .pyo,.[6] pyw, .pyz[7]
Major implementations
CPython, IronPython, Jython, MicroPython, PyPy
Cython, RPython, Stackless Python
Influenced by
ABC,[8] ALGOL 68,[9] C,[10] C++,[11] Dylan,[12] Haskell,[13] Icon,[14] Java,[15] Lisp,[16] Modula‑3,[11] Perl
Boo, Cobra, CoffeeScript,[17] D, F#, Falcon, Genie,[18] Go, Groovy, JavaScript,[19][20] Julia,[21] Nim, Ruby,[22] Swift,[23]

Python is a widely used high-level, general-purpose, interpreted, dynamic programming language.[24][25] Its design philosophy emphasizes code readability, and its syntax allows programmers to express concepts in fewer lines of code than possible in languages such as C++ or Java.[26][27] The language provides constructs intended to enable clear programs on both a small and large scale.[28]

Python supports multiple programming paradigms, including object-oriented, imperative and functional programming or procedural styles. It features a dynamic type system and automatic memory management and has a large and comprehensive standard library.[29]

Python interpreters are available for many operating systems, allowing Python code to run on a wide variety of systems. Using third-party tools, such as Py2exe or Pyinstaller,[30] Python code can be packaged into stand-alone executable programs for some of the most popular operating systems, so Python-based software can be distributed to, and used on, those environments with no need to install a Python interpreter.

CPython, the reference implementation of Python, is free and open-source software and has a community-based development model, as do nearly all of its variant implementations. CPython is managed by the non-profit Python Software Foundation.


Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python

Main article: History of Python

Python was conceived in the late 1980s,[31] and its implementation began in December 1989[32] by Guido van Rossum at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in the Netherlands as a successor to the ABC language (itself inspired by SETL)[33] capable of exception handling and interfacing with the operating system Amoeba.[8] Van Rossum is Python's principal author, and his continuing central role in deciding the direction of Python is reflected in the title given to him by the Python community, benevolent dictator for life (BDFL).

About the origin of Python, Van Rossum wrote in 1996:[34]

Over six years ago, in December 1989, I was looking for a "hobby" programming project that would keep me occupied during the week around Christmas. My office ... would be closed, but I had a home computer, and not much else on my hands. I decided to write an interpreter for the new scripting language I had been thinking about lately: a descendant of ABC that would appeal to Unix/C hackers. I chose Python as a working title for the project, being in a slightly irreverent mood (and a big fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus).

Python 2.0 was released on 16 October 2000 and had many major new features, including a cycle-detecting garbage collector and support for Unicode. With this release the development process was changed and became more transparent and community-backed.[35]

Python 3.0 (which early in its development was commonly referred to as Python 3000 or py3k), a major, backwards-incompatible release, was released on 3 December 2008[36] after a long period of testing. Many of its major features have been backported to the backwards-compatible Python 2.6.x[37] and 2.7.x version series.

Features and philosophy

Python is a multi-paradigm programming language: object-oriented programming and structured programming are fully supported, and many language features support functional programming and aspect-oriented programming (including by metaprogramming[38] and metaobjects (magic methods)).[39] Many other paradigms are supported via extensions, including design by contract[40][41] and logic programming.[42]

Python uses dynamic typing and a mix of reference counting and a cycle-detecting garbage collector for memory management. An important feature of Python is dynamic name resolution (late binding), which binds method and variable names during program execution.

The design of Python offers some support for functional programming in the Lisp tradition. The language has map(), reduce() and filter() functions; list comprehensions, dictionaries, and sets; and generator expressions.[43] The standard library has two modules (itertools and functools) that implement functional tools borrowed from Haskell and Standard ML.[44]

The core philosophy of the language is summarized by the document The Zen of Python (PEP 20), which includes aphorisms such as:[45]

Rather than requiring all desired functionality to be built into the language's core, Python was designed to be highly extensible. Python can also be embedded in existing applications that need a programmable interface. This design of a small core language with a large standard library and an easily extensible interpreter was intended by Van Rossum from the start because of his frustrations with ABC, which espoused the opposite mindset.[31]

While offering choice in coding methodology, the Python philosophy rejects exuberant syntax, such as in Perl, in favor of a sparser, less-cluttered grammar. As Alex Martelli put it: "To describe something as clever is not considered a compliment in the Python culture."[46] Python's philosophy rejects the Perl "there is more than one way to do it" approach to language design in favor of "there should be one—and preferably only one—obvious way to do it".[45]

Python's developers strive to avoid premature optimization, and moreover, reject patches to non-critical parts of CPython that would offer a marginal increase in speed at the cost of clarity.[47] When speed is important, a Python programmer can move time-critical functions to extension modules written in languages such as C, or try using PyPy, a just-in-time compiler. Cython is also available, which translates a Python script into C and makes direct C-level API calls into the Python interpreter.

An important goal of Python's developers is making it fun to use. This is reflected in the origin of the name, which comes from Monty Python,[48] and in an occasionally playful approach to tutorials and reference materials, such as using examples that refer to spam and eggs instead of the standard foo and bar.[49][50]

A common neologism in the Python community is pythonic, which can have a wide range of meanings related to program style. To say that code is pythonic is to say that it uses Python idioms well, that it is natural or shows fluency in the language, that it conforms with Python's minimalist philosophy and emphasis on readability. In contrast, code that is difficult to understand or reads like a rough transcription from another programming language is called unpythonic.

Users and admirers of Python, especially those considered knowledgeable or experienced, are often referred to as Pythonists, Pythonistas, and Pythoneers.[51][52]

Syntax and semantics

Main article: Python syntax and semantics

Python is intended to be a highly readable language. It is designed to have an uncluttered visual layout, often using English keywords where other languages use punctuation. Further, Python has fewer syntactic exceptions and special cases than C or Pascal.[53]


Main article: Python syntax and semantics § Indentation

Python uses whitespace indentation, rather than curly braces or keywords, to delimit blocks; this feature is also termed the off-side rule. An increase in indentation comes after certain statements; a decrease in indentation signifies the end of the current block.[54]

Statements and control flow

Python's statements include (among others):

Python does not support tail call optimization or first-class continuations, and, according to Guido van Rossum, it never will.[56][57] However, better support for coroutine-like functionality is provided in 2.5, by extending Python's generators.[58] Before 2.5, generators were lazy iterators; information was passed unidirectionally out of the generator. As of Python 2.5, it is possible to pass information back into a generator function, and as of Python 3.3, the information can be passed through multiple stack levels.[59]


Some Python expressions are similar to languages such as C and Java, while some are not:

In Python, a distinction between expressions and statements is rigidly enforced, in contrast to languages such as Common Lisp, Scheme, or Ruby. This leads to duplicating some functionality. For example:

Statements cannot be a part of an expression, so list and other comprehensions or lambda expressions, all being expressions, cannot contain statements. A particular case of this is that an assignment statement such as a = 1 cannot form part of the conditional expression of a conditional statement. This has the advantage of avoiding a classic C error of mistaking an assignment operator = for an equality operator == in conditions: if (c = 1) { ... } is valid C code but if c = 1: ... causes a syntax error in Python.


Methods on objects are functions attached to the object's class; the syntax instance.method(argument) is, for normal methods and functions, syntactic sugar for Class.method(instance, argument). Python methods have an explicit self parameter to access instance data, in contrast to the implicit self (or this) in some other object-oriented programming languages (e.g., C++, Java, Objective-C, or Ruby).[65]


Python uses duck typing and has typed objects but untyped variable names. Type constraints are not checked at compile time; rather, operations on an object may fail, signifying that the given object is not of a suitable type. Despite being dynamically typed, Python is strongly typed, forbidding operations that are not well-defined (for example, adding a number to a string) rather than silently attempting to make sense of them.

Python allows programmers to define their own types using classes, which are most often used for object-oriented programming. New instances of classes are constructed by calling the class (for example, SpamClass() or EggsClass()), and the classes are instances of the metaclass type (itself an instance of itself), allowing metaprogramming and reflection.

Before version 3.0, Python had two kinds of classes: old-style and new-style.[66] Old-style classes were eliminated in Python 3.0, making all classes new-style. In versions between 2.2 and 3.0, both kinds of classes could be used. The syntax of both styles is the same, the difference being whether the class object is inherited from, directly or indirectly (all new-style classes inherit from object and are instances of type).

Summary of Python 3's built-in types
Type Mutable Description Syntax example
str Immutable A character string: sequence of Unicode codepoints 'Wikipedia'
bytearray Mutable Sequence of bytes bytearray(b'Some ASCII')
bytearray(b"Some ASCII")
bytearray([119, 105, 107, 105])
bytes Immutable Sequence of bytes b'Some ASCII'
b"Some ASCII"
bytes([119, 105, 107, 105])
list Mutable List, can contain mixed types [4.0, 'string', True]
tuple Immutable Can contain mixed types (4.0, 'string', True)
set Mutable Unordered set, contains no duplicates; can contain mixed types if hashable {4.0, 'string', True}
frozenset Immutable Unordered set, contains no duplicates; can contain mixed types if hashable frozenset([4.0, 'string', True])
dict Mutable Associative array (or dictionary) of key and value pairs; can contain mixed types (keys and values), keys must be a hashable type {'key1': 1.0, 3: False}
int Immutable Integer of unlimited magnitude[67] 42
float Immutable Floating point number, system-defined precision 3.1415927
complex Immutable Complex number with real and imaginary parts 3+2.7j
bool Immutable Boolean value True
ellipsis An ellipsis placeholder to be used as an index in NumPy arrays ...


Python has the usual C arithmetic operators (+, -, *, /, %). It also has ** for exponentiation, e.g. 5**3 == 125 and 9**0.5 == 3.0, and a new matrix multiply @ operator is included in version 3.5.[68]

The behavior of division has changed significantly over time:[69]

Rounding towards negative infinity, though different from most languages, adds consistency. For instance, it means that the equation (a+b) // b == a // b + 1 is always true. It also means that the equation b * (a // b) + a % b == a is valid for both positive and negative values of a. However, maintaining the validity of this equation means that while the result of a % b is, as expected, in the half-open interval [0, b), where b is a positive integer, it has to lie in the interval (b, 0] when b is negative.[70]

Python provides a round function for rounding a float to the nearest integer. For tie-breaking, versions before 3 use round-away-from-zero: round(0.5) is 1.0, round(-0.5) is −1.0.[71] Python 3 uses round to even: round(1.5) is 2, round(2.5) is 2.[72]

Python allows boolean expressions with multiple equality relations in a manner that is consistent with general use in mathematics. For example, the expression a < b < c tests whether a is less than b and b is less than c. C-derived languages interpret this expression differently: in C, the expression would first evaluate a < b, resulting in 0 or 1, and that result would then be compared with c.[73][page needed]

Python has extensive built-in support for arbitrary precision arithmetic. Integers are transparently switched from the machine-supported maximum fixed-precision (usually 32 or 64 bits), belonging to the python type int, to arbitrary precision, belonging to the python type long, where needed. The latter have an "L" suffix in their textual representation.[74] The Decimal type/class in module decimal (since version 2.4) provides decimal floating point numbers to arbitrary precision and several rounding modes.[75] The Fraction type in module fractions (since version 2.6) provides arbitrary precision for rational numbers.[76]

Due to Python's extensive mathematics library, it is frequently used as a scientific scripting language to aid in problems such as numerical data processing and manipulation.


Python has a large standard library, commonly cited as one of Python's greatest strengths,[77] providing tools suited to many tasks. This is deliberate and has been described as a "batteries included"[29] Python philosophy. For Internet-facing applications, many standard formats and protocols (such as MIME and HTTP) are supported. Modules for creating graphical user interfaces, connecting to relational databases, pseudorandom number generators, arithmetic with arbitrary precision decimals,[78] manipulating regular expressions, and doing unit testing are also included.

Some parts of the standard library are covered by specifications (for example, the Web Server Gateway Interface (WSGI) implementation wsgiref follows PEP 333[79]), but most modules are not. They are specified by their code, internal documentation, and test suite (if supplied). However, because most of the standard library is cross-platform Python code, only a few modules need altering or rewriting for variant implementations.

The standard library is not needed to run Python or embed it in an application. For example, Blender 2.49 omits most of the standard library.

As of August 2016, the Python Package Index, the official repository of third-party software for Python, contains over 86,000[80] packages offering a wide range of functionality, including:

Development environments

See also: Comparison of integrated development environments § Python

Most Python implementations (including CPython) can function as a command line interpreter, for which the user enters statements sequentially and receives the results immediately (read–eval–print loop (REPL)). In short, Python acts as a command-line interface or shell.

Other shells add abilities beyond those in the basic interpreter, including IDLE and IPython. While generally following the visual style of the Python shell, they implement features like auto-completion, session state retention, and syntax highlighting.

In addition to standard desktop integrated development environments (Python IDEs), there are also web browser-based IDEs, Sage (intended for developing science and math-related Python programs), and a browser-based IDE and hosting environment, PythonAnywhere. Additionally, the Canopy IDE is also an option for creating python programs.[81]


See also: List of Python software § Python implementations

The main Python implementation, named CPython, is written in C meeting the C89 standard.[82] It compiles Python programs into intermediate bytecode,[83] which is executed by the virtual machine.[84] CPython is distributed with a large standard library written in a mixture of C and Python. It is available in versions for many platforms, including Windows and most modern Unix-like systems. CPython was intended from almost its very conception to be cross-platform.[85]

PyPy is a fast, compliant[86] interpreter of Python 2.7 and 3.2. Its just-in-time compiler brings a significant speed improvement over CPython.[87] A version taking advantage of multi-core processors using software transactional memory is being created.[88]

Stackless Python is a significant fork of CPython that implements microthreads; it does not use the C memory stack, thus allowing massively concurrent programs. PyPy also has a stackless version.[89]

MicroPython is a lean, fast Python 3 variant that is optimised to run on microcontrollers.

Other just-in-time compilers have been developed in the past, but are now unsupported:

In 2005, Nokia released a Python interpreter for the Series 60 mobile phones named PyS60. It includes many of the modules from the CPython implementations and some added modules to integrate with the Symbian operating system. This project has been kept up to date to run on all variants of the S60 platform and there are several third party modules available. The Nokia N900 also supports Python with GTK widget libraries, with the feature that programs can be both written and run on the target device.[91]

There are several compilers to high-level object languages, with either unrestricted Python, a restricted subset of Python, or a language similar to Python as the source language:

A performance comparison of various Python implementations on a non-numerical (combinatorial) workload was presented at EuroSciPy '13.[92]


Python's development is conducted largely through the Python Enhancement Proposal (PEP) process. The PEP process is the primary mechanism for proposing major new features, for collecting community input on an issue, and for documenting the design decisions that have gone into Python.[93] Outstanding PEPs are reviewed and commented upon by the Python community and by Van Rossum, the Python project's benevolent dictator for life.[93]

Enhancement of the language goes along with development of the CPython reference implementation. The mailing list python-dev is the primary forum for discussion about the language's development; specific issues are discussed in the Roundup bug tracker maintained at[94] Development takes place on a self-hosted source code repository running Mercurial.[95]

CPython's public releases come in three types, distinguished by which part of the version number is incremented:

Many alpha, beta, and release-candidates are also released as previews, and for testing before final releases. Although there is a rough schedule for each release, this is often pushed back if the code is not ready. The development team monitors the state of the code by running the large unit test suite during development, and using the BuildBot continuous integration system.[98]

The community of Python developers has also contributed over 86,000[99] software modules (as of August 20, 2016) to the Python Package Index (PyPI), the official repository of third-party libraries for Python.

The major academic conference on Python is named PyCon. There are special mentoring programmes like the Pyladies.


Python's name is derived from the television series Monty Python's Flying Circus,[100] and it is common to use Monty Python references in example code.[101] For example, the metasyntactic variables often used in Python literature are spam and eggs, instead of the traditional foo and bar.[101][102] Also, the official Python documentation often contains various obscure Monty Python references.

The prefix Py- is used to show that something is related to Python. Examples of the use of this prefix in names of Python applications or libraries include Pygame, a binding of SDL to Python (commonly used to create games); PyS60, an implementation for the Symbian S60 operating system; PyQt and PyGTK, which bind Qt and GTK, respectively, to Python; and PyPy, a Python implementation originally written in Python.


Main article: List of Python software

Since 2003, Python has consistently ranked in the top ten most popular programming languages as measured by the TIOBE Programming Community Index. As of August 2016, it is the fifth most popular language.[103] It was ranked as Programming Language of the Year for the year 2007 and 2010.[24] It is the third most popular language whose grammatical syntax is not predominantly based on C, e.g. C++, Objective-C (note, C# and Java only have partial syntactic similarity to C, such as the use of curly braces, and are closer in similarity to each other than C).

An empirical study found scripting languages (such as Python) more productive than conventional languages (such as C and Java) for a programming problem involving string manipulation and search in a dictionary. Memory consumption was often "better than Java and not much worse than C or C++".[104]

Large organizations that make use of Python include Google,[105] Yahoo!,[106] CERN,[107] NASA,[108] and some smaller ones like ILM,[109] and ITA.[110] The social news networking site, Reddit, is written entirely in Python.

Python can serve as a scripting language for web applications, e.g., via mod_wsgi for the Apache web server.[111] With Web Server Gateway Interface, a standard API has evolved to facilitate these applications. Web frameworks like Django, Pylons, Pyramid, TurboGears, web2py, Tornado, Flask, Bottle and Zope support developers in the design and maintenance of complex applications. Pyjamas and IronPython can be used to develop the client-side of Ajax-based applications. SQLAlchemy can be used as data mapper to a relational database. Twisted is a framework to program communications between computers, and is used (for example) by Dropbox.

Libraries like NumPy, SciPy and Matplotlib allow the effective use of Python in scientific computing,[112][113] with specialized libraries such as BioPython and Astropy providing domain-specific functionality. Sage is a mathematical software with a "notebook" programmable in Python: its library covers many aspects of mathematics, including algebra, combinatorics, numerical mathematics, number theory, and calculus.

Python has been successfully embedded in many software products as a scripting language, including in finite element method software such as Abaqus, 3D parametric modeler like FreeCAD, 3D animation packages such as 3ds Max, Blender, Cinema 4D, Lightwave, Houdini, Maya, modo, MotionBuilder, Softimage, the visual effects compositor Nuke, 2D imaging programs like GIMP,[114] Inkscape, Scribus and Paint Shop Pro,[115] and musical notation program or scorewriter capella. GNU Debugger uses Python as a pretty printer to show complex structures such as C++ containers. Esri promotes Python as the best choice for writing scripts in ArcGIS.[116] It has also been used in several video games,[117][118] and has been adopted as first of the three available programming languages in Google App Engine, the other two being Java and Go.[119]

Python has been used in artificial intelligence tasks.[120][121][122][123] As a scripting language with module architecture, simple syntax and rich text processing tools, Python is often used for natural language processing tasks.[124]

Many operating systems include Python as a standard component; the language ships with most Linux distributions, AmigaOS 4, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and OS X, and can be used from the terminal. Many Linux distributions use installers written in Python: Ubuntu uses the Ubiquity installer, while Red Hat Linux and Fedora use the Anaconda installer. Gentoo Linux uses Python in its package management system, Portage.

Python has also seen extensive use in the information security industry, including in exploit development.[125][126]

Most of the Sugar software for the One Laptop per Child XO, now developed at Sugar Labs, is written in Python.[127]

The Raspberry Pi single-board computer project has adopted Python as its main user-programming language.

LibreOffice includes Python and intends to replace Java with Python. Python Scripting Provider is a core feature[128] since Version 4.0 from 7 February 2013.

Languages influenced by Python

Python's design and philosophy have influenced several programming languages, including:

Python's development practices have also been emulated by other languages. The practice of requiring a document describing the rationale for, and issues surrounding, a change to the language (in Python's case, a PEP) is also used in Tcl[138] and Erlang[139] because of Python's influence.

Python has been awarded a TIOBE Programming Language of the Year award twice (in 2007 and 2010), which is given to the language with the greatest growth in popularity over the course of a year, as measured by the TIOBE index.[140]

See also


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Further reading