5 Best Ways to Check if Characters of a Given String Can Be Rearranged to Form a Palindrome in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: The task is to determine whether the characters of a string can be rearranged to form a palindrome. A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backward as forward. For example, if we take the input ‘aabb’, the output should be ‘True’ as we can rearrange it to ‘abba’ or ‘baab’, which are palindromes.

Method 1: Using a Dictionary to Count Frequencies

This method involves using a Python dictionary to count the frequency of each character in the string. A string can be rearranged into a palindrome if at most one character has an odd frequency. We loop through the characters, tallying their occurrences, and then ensure that no more than one character has an odd count.

Here’s an example:

def can_form_palindrome(s):
    char_freq = {}
    for char in s:
        char_freq[char] = char_freq.get(char, 0) + 1
    odd_count = sum(val % 2 for val in char_freq.values())
    return odd_count <= 1


Output: True

The function can_form_palindrome creates a frequency dictionary, counts odd occurrences, and then checks if there is at most one odd frequency. This is a good approach because it is clear and straightforward, though it’s not the most Pythonic way to solve the problem.

Method 2: Using collections.Counter

The collections module in Python provides a Counter class specifically for counting hashable objects. It’s a container that stores elements as dictionary keys, and their counts are stored as dictionary values. This method provides a more concise and readable way of counting character frequencies compared to the first method.

Here’s an example:

from collections import Counter

def can_form_palindrome(s):
    char_freq = Counter(s)
    return sum(freq % 2 for freq in char_freq.values()) <= 1


Output: True

By importing Counter from collections and using it to count character occurrences, we can then apply the same logic as in Method 1 in a more concise manner. This method is more elegant and requires less code.

Method 3: Using set to Identify Unique Characters

This method utilizes a set to store characters which occur an odd number of times. While iterating over the string, each character is added to the set if it’s not already present, or removed if it is. Afterwards, if the set has more than one character, the string cannot form a palindrome when rearranged.

Here’s an example:

def can_form_palindrome(s):
    odd_chars = set()
    for char in s:
    return len(odd_chars) <= 1


Output: True

The symmetric_difference_update method updates the set, keeping only elements found in either the set or the operand (the character in this case), but not in both. This method efficiently tracks characters with odd counts, but may not be as immediately intuitive as counting frequencies.

Method 4: Using Python List Comprehensions

This method applies list comprehensions to create a list of counts for characters and filters them by odd occurrences. The list should have at most one odd-occurring character count for the string to be capable of being rewritten as a palindrome.

Here’s an example:

def can_form_palindrome(s):
    return len([char for char in set(s) if s.count(char) % 2 != 0]) <= 1


Output: True

This one-liner uses a list comprehension to filter out characters with an odd count and checks the filtered list’s length. This approach is very compact but less efficient for large strings, as the count method is called multiple times for each character.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Utilizing Pythonic Approach with sum and any

Combining Python’s ability to evaluate booleans and the sum function, we achieve a one-line method. The any function is used to detect more than one odd-count character, indicating that the string cannot be a palindrome.

Here’s an example:

def can_form_palindrome(s):
    return sum(v % 2 for v in Counter(s).values()) <= 1


Output: True

The code snippet utilizes the Counter class for frequency counting and generates a sum of booleans indicating the odd occurrences. This approach is both compact and efficient, particularly for medium-sized strings.


  • Method 1: Using a Dictionary to Count Frequencies. Straightforward, clear logic. Can be a bit verbose.
  • Method 2: Using collections.Counter. More Pythonic with cleaner code. Relies on standard library.
  • Method 3: Using set to Identify Unique Characters. Efficient memory usage, but less intuitive logic.
  • Method 4: Using Python List Comprehensions. Compact, but can be inefficient for large strings due to repeated count function calls.
  • Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Utilizing Pythonic Approach. Efficient, concise, but may require a good understanding of Python to decipher quickly.