Python offers a number of functional programming utilities even though it's primarily an object-oriented programming language. And the most notable one is the map() function.

In this article, we'll explore what the map() function is and how to use it in your code.

The map() function in Python

The map() function (which is a built-in function in Python) is used to apply a function to each item in an iterable (like a Python list or dictionary). It returns a new iterable (a map object) that you can use in other parts of your code.

The general syntax for this is:

map(function, iterable, [iterable1, iterable2, ...])

Let's see an example: imagine you have a list of numbers, and you want to create a new list with the cubes of the numbers in the first list. A traditional approach would involve using the for loop:

org_list = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
fin_list = []

for num in org_list:

print(fin_list) # [1, 8, 27, 64, 125]

which is perfectly valid, but let's see how using the map() function simplifies your code:

org_list = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

# define a function that returns the cube of `num`
def cube(num):
    return num**3
fin_list = list(map(cube, org_list))
print(fin_list) # [1, 8, 27, 64, 125]

Don't know about you, but I find this to be much cleaner logic.

In case you're wondering what went on behind the scenes, the map() function essentially iterated through each element of the iterable (in our case, org_list) and applied the cube function on it. It finally returned a new iterable (fin_list ) with the result.

How to Use Lambda Expressions in Python

Instead of writing a separate function to calculate the cube of a number, we can use a lambda expression in its place. Here's how you'd do that:

fin_list = list(map(lambda x:x**3, org_list))
print(fin_list) # [1, 8, 27, 64, 125]

Much cleaner, wouldn't you agree?

How to Use Built-in Functions in Python

You can also pass in built-in Python functions. For example if you had a list of strings, you can easily create a new list with the length of each string in the list.

org_list = ["Hello", "world", "freecodecamp"]
fin_list = list(map(len, org_list))
print(fin_list) # [5, 5, 12]

How to Use Functions with Multiple Iterables in Python

So far we've passed into map() functions that take only one argument (recall the cube(num)). But what if your function takes in multiple arguments? An example of this would be the pow(x, y) function that takes in 2 arguments (it returns the result of x^y).

To apply a function with multiple arguments, simply pass in another iterable name following the first one.

base = [1, 2, 3, 4]
power = [1, 2, 3, 4]

result = list(map(pow, base, power))
print(result) # [1, 4, 27, 256]

Wrapping Up

In this article, you've learned how to work with the map() function in Python. You also saw how it can dramatically reduce the size of your code, making it more readable and bug-free.

You should now be comfortable working with map() using built-in functions, lambda expressions, and even your own custom function!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for updates on future articles. Have a nice one!