Python Reverse List with Slicing — An Illustrated Guide

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Summary: The slice notation list[::-1] with default start and stop indices and negative step size -1 reverses a given list.

Python Reverse List with Slicing

Problem: Given a list of elements. How to reverse the order of the elements in the list.

Example: Say, you’ve got the following list:

['Alice', 'Bob', 'Carl', 'Dora']

Your goal is to reverse the elements to obtain the following result:

['Dora', 'Carl', 'Bob', 'Alice']

Slicing with Default Start and Stop Values

Slicing is a concept to carve out a substring from a given string.

Use slicing notation s[start:stop:step] to access every step-th element starting from index start (included) and ending in index stop (excluded).

All three arguments are optional, so you can skip them to use the default values (start=0, stop=len(lst), step=1). For example, the expression s[2:4] from string 'hello' carves out the slice 'll' and the expression s[:3:2] carves out the slice 'hl'. Note that slicing works the same for lists and strings.

You can use a negative step size (e.g., -1) to slice from the right to the left in inverse order. Here’s how you can use this to reverse a list in Python:

# Reverse a List with Slicing
names = ['Alice', 'Bob', 'Carl', 'Dora']
names = names[::-1]
print(names)
# ['Dora', 'Carl', 'Bob', 'Alice']

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Alternatives Reversing List

Alternatively, you can also use other methods to reverse a list.

  • list.reverse() — Best if you want to reverse the elements of list in place.
  • list[::-1] — Best if you want to write concise code to return a new list with reversed elements.
  • reversed(list) — Best if you want to iterate over all elements of a list in reversed order without changing the original list.

The method list.reverse() can be 37% faster than reversed(list) because no new object has to be created.

Try it yourself in our interactive Python shell:

Exercise: Run the code. Do all methods result in the same reversed list?

Where to Go From Here?

Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!

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