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Sort Dictionary by Value: Effortless Python Tutorial


Sorting a Python Dictionary: Values, Keys, and More

Sorting a dictionary is a common task in Python, but it can be a bit tricky if you’re not familiar with the proper methods. In this tutorial, we’ll explore different approaches to sorting a dictionary and explain how each method works.

Rediscovering Dictionary Order in Python

Before diving into the sorting methods, it’s important to understand how dictionaries were handled in Python versions prior to 3.6. In those versions, dictionaries were inherently unordered due to their implementation as hash tables.

However, starting with Python 3.6, dictionaries began to preserve the insertion order to some extent. From Python 3.7 onwards, the preservation of insertion order is guaranteed. This change was introduced as a result of the compact dictionary implementation.

Understanding What Sorting a Dictionary Really Means

To sort a dictionary, you need to consider how you want the sorting to be performed. Do you want to sort the dictionary by its keys, values, or both? This distinction is important because it affects the sorting method you’ll use.

Sorting Dictionaries in Python

Using the sorted() Function

The sorted() function is a built-in function in Python that can be used to sort various types of iterables, including dictionaries. When sorting a dictionary, the sorted() function returns a list of sorted keys.

To demonstrate this, let’s consider a dictionary with some key-value pairs:

d = {'apple': 5, 'banana': 2, 'cherry': 7, 'date': 1}

To sort this dictionary by its keys, you can use the sorted() function as follows:

sorted_keys = sorted(d)

The sorted_keys list will contain the keys of the dictionary sorted in ascending order:

['apple', 'banana', 'cherry', 'date']

Getting Keys, Values, or Both From a Dictionary

In addition to sorting by keys, you may also want to sort a dictionary by its values. To do this, you can use the key parameter of the sorted() function along with a lambda function.

For example, let’s sort the dictionary from the previous example by its values in ascending order:

sorted_values = sorted(d, key=lambda x: d[x])

The sorted_values list will contain the keys of the dictionary sorted by their corresponding values:

['date', 'banana', 'apple', 'cherry']

If you want to sort the dictionary by both keys and values, you can use the items() method of the dictionary to get a list of (key, value) tuples. Then, you can pass a lambda function to the sorted() function to specify the sorting order based on keys and values.

Understanding How Python Sorts Tuples

Since dictionaries are unordered collections, sorting them requires converting the dictionary to a list of tuples. Python follows a specific order when comparing tuples for sorting:

  1. The first elements of the tuples are compared.
  2. If the first elements are equal, the second elements are compared.
  3. If the second elements are equal, the third elements are compared.

This process continues until all the elements have been compared or a difference is found.

Considering Strategic and Performance Issues

When sorting dictionaries or any other data structure, it’s important to consider the strategic and performance implications of your choice. Sorting a dictionary can impact the overall performance of your program, especially if the dictionary is large.

To optimize the sorting process, you can use special getter functions such as itemgetter() or attrgetter() from the operator module. These functions can improve both the performance and readability of your code.

In addition, it’s important to measure the performance of your code using the timeit module. This will help you evaluate the efficiency of different sorting methods and choose the most suitable one for your needs.

Finally, it’s essential to compare the performance of different data structures when dealing with key-value data. Choosing the right data structure can have a significant impact on the speed and efficiency of sorting operations.


Sorting a dictionary in Python can be achieved using various methods, depending on whether you want to sort by keys, values, or both. The sorted() function, along with lambda functions and getter functions, provides flexible options for sorting dictionaries.

However, it’s important to consider the strategic and performance implications of sorting, especially when dealing with large dictionaries. By measuring the performance of different sorting methods and considering alternative data structures, you can optimize your code and improve its efficiency.

By following the techniques and principles outlined in this tutorial, you’ll be able to confidently sort dictionaries in Python and tackle any sorting challenge you encounter.