Python __import__() Magic Method

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🛑 Overriding this function is strongly discouraged. To change the semantics of the import statement, use import hooks instead!

Still here? 😉 So, let’s get started learning the syntax of this function. You can also check out our in-depth article on the __import__ statement here.


 __import__(name, globals=None, locals=None, fromlist=(), level=0)
nameImport the module with this name.
globalsSet the global namespace in which to search the name with this globals argument.
localsSet the local namespace in which to search the name with this locals argument.
fromlistImport the names of objects to be imported using this list argument.
levelUse absolute (level=0) or relative imports (level>0), i.e., the number of parent directories to search relative to the calling module’s directory.

We call this a “Dunder Method” for Double Underscore Method” (also called “magic method”). To get a list of all dunder methods with explanation, check out our dunder cheat sheet article on this blog.

Examples Overriding __import__

The statement import my_module is semantically similar to the following:

my_module = __import__('my_module', globals(), locals(), [], 0)

In case you need some background:

  • Python globals() returns a dictionary of name --> object mappings. The names are the ones defined globally, i.e., defined by Python or in the outside scope of your program. The objects are the values associated to these names.
  • Python locals() returns a dictionary of name --> object mappings. The names are the ones defined in the current local scope, i.e., defined within the current module, class, method, or function—whatever the most local scope is.

But what if you import an individual name (e.g., xyz) from the module my_module? The call import gets translated to code similar to this one:

my_module = __import__('', globals(), locals(), [], 0)

💡 Note: The return value of the __import__() dunder method is the top-level module, not the name xyz within it!

However, to import a module by name, the more Pythonic approach is importlib.import_module().


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