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We can create anonymous functions, known as lambda functions. Lambda functions are different from normal Python functions, they originate from Lambda Calculus. It allows you to write very short functions.

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Lambda function example
This code shows the use of a lambda function:

#!/usr/bin/env python

f = lambda x : 2 * x
print f(3)

A return statements is never used in a lambda function, it always returns
something. A lambda functions may contain if statements:

#!/usr/bin/env python

f = lambda x: x > 10

map function

The definition of map is map(function,iterable). It applies a function to every item in the iteratable. We can use map() on a lambda function with a list:

#!/usr/bin/env python

list = [1,2,3,4,5]
squaredList = map(lambda x: x*x, list)

Anywhere you use lambda functions, you could use normal functions instead. A lambda function is not a statement, it is an expression. Lambda functions do not support a block of statements.

filter function

filter(function,iterable) creates a new list from the elements for which the function returns True. Example:

#!/usr/bin/env python

list = [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
newList = filter(lambda x: x % 2 == 0, list)

The returning list returns contains only the elements for which the lambda expression “lamba x: x % 2 == 0” is true.

reduce function

The reduce function, reduce(function, iterable) applies two arguments cumulatively to the items of iterable, from left to right. Example:

#!/usr/bin/env python

list = [1,2,3,4,5]
s = reduce(lambda x,y: x+y, list)

In this case the expression is always true, thus it simply sums up the elements of the list. Another example:

#!/usr/bin/env python

list = [10,6,7,5,2,1,8,5]
s = reduce(lambda x,y: x if (x > y) else y, list)

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Leave a Reply:

Mimi Thu, 20 Aug 2015

printing list objects like print(newList) brings a .
I have to rather do:
for item in newList:

Orri Fri, 21 Aug 2015

For the map function, I ended up doing the following since the map function returns the map object, not the content of the list.

#!/usr/bin/env python

numbers = [1,2,3,4,5]
squaredList = map(lambda x: x*x, numbers)

Ian Sat, 22 Aug 2015

The following comments apply to python 3.4.3; I did not try anything with v 2.x.
As Guest, Orri, points out: one must cast the return of the map function to a list, before one can print the output list. Therefore it is not a good idea to use "list" as a variable name, as it overwrites the list casting function. An alternative to Orri's resolution is:

List1 = [1,2,3,4,5]
squaredList = list(map(lambda x: x*x, List1))

A similar comment applies to the filter example and the following code fixes the problem:

List2 = [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
newList = list(filter(lambda x: x % 2 == 0, List2))

Finally, the function "reduce" does not seem to automatically available. One should at least import it; e.g.,

from functools import reduce

One doesn't need to cast the result of applying reduce -- at not in this example -- since the result is a number which can readily be printed. Are there some other (interesting) examples involving "reduce", where one would have to apply a cast?

Shlomo Mon, 23 Nov 2015

What is the output of the last example ? I run it and got 10 !
I did not understand why ?

Frank Mon, 23 Nov 2015

Correct, the output of the last example is 10. The program applies a comparison to every x and y from left to right.
The statement 'x if (x > y) else y' is applied to every pair until no further reduction is possible. For example, if you have the list [1,3,10,4,1]
it will return 10 because at some point it will compare 'x=3, y=10: if (3 > 10) return 3 else return 10'. The program keeps repeating the statement 'x if (x > y) else y' until it cannot be applied further.

Trae McCombs Fri, 16 Jun 2017

There is an > somehow in there and it took me a bit to realize... oh this is just HTML showing. Whoever maintains this page may want to look into that. :)

Trae McCombs Fri, 16 Jun 2017

ugh... there is an & g t ; ^ it auto created the HTML.

Frank Sat, 17 Jun 2017

Thanks Trae! I've updated the article.

Paul 2022-02-24T14:42:49.997Z

There are a number of typos.

'they origin ...' should be 'they originate ...'

'map() to on a lambda function' should be 'map() on a lambda function'

'the elmeents' should be 'the elements'

Frank 2022-02-24T14:42:50.997Z

Thanks, I fixed the typos