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How do you use the ellipsis slicing syntax in Python?

Posted by: admin November 1, 2017 Leave a comment


This came up in Hidden features of Python, but I can’t see good documentation or examples that explain how the feature works.


You’d use it in your own class, since no builtin class makes use of it.

Numpy uses it, as stated in the documentation. Some examples here.

In your own class, you’d use it like this:

>>> class TestEllipsis(object):
...     def __getitem__(self, item):
...         if item is Ellipsis:
...             return "Returning all items"
...         else:
...             return "return %r items" % item
>>> x = TestEllipsis()
>>> print x[2]
return 2 items
>>> print x[...]
Returning all items

Of course, there is the python documentation, and language reference. But those aren’t very helpful.


The ellipsis is used to slice higher-dimensional data structures.

It’s designed to mean at this point, insert as many full slices (:) to extend the multi-dimensional slice to all dimensions.


>>> from numpy import arange
>>> a = arange(16).reshape(2,2,2,2)

Now, you have a 4-dimensional matrix of order 2x2x2x2. To select all first elements in the 4th dimension, you can use the ellipsis notation

>>> a[..., 0].flatten()
array([ 0,  2,  4,  6,  8, 10, 12, 14])

which is equivalent to

>>> a[:,:,:,0].flatten()
array([ 0,  2,  4,  6,  8, 10, 12, 14])

In your own implementations, you’re free to ignore the contract mentioned above and use it for whatever you see fit.


This is another use for Ellipsis, which has nothing to do with slices: I often use it in intra-thread communication with queues, as a mark that signals “Done”; it’s there, it’s an object, it’s a singleton, and its name means “lack of”, and it’s not the overused None (which could be put in a queue as part of normal data flow). YMMV.

P.S: I don’t mind downvotes, when what I say in an answer is not useful in relation to the question; then I try to improve my answer. But I sure can’t understand how one can downvote any of the answers in this question— when the question is “how do you use the Ellipsis in Python”… It seems that people think that downvoting means “I disagree” or “I don’t like this”.


Python documentation aren’t very clear about this but there is another use of ellipsis. It is used as a representation of infinite data structures in case of Python. This question discusses how and some actual applications.