Previously, we learned how we can use lists in Python to store multiple values, or elements, in a single variable. Each element in a list is given an index, which allows us to uniquely reference and identify each element’s position in a list. Python lists use consecutive integers starting at $ 0 $ as indexes, which makes for a pretty easy to use data structure.

However, what if we would like to use some other value besides an integer as the index? For example, if we create a data structure to store information about a user account, wouldn’t it be much easier if we could use the username as the index, allowing us to quickly find that particular user’s data?

Thankfully, Python includes another built-in data structure, called a dictionary, that allows us to do exactly that. In a dictionary, instead of indexes we have keys, which can be any data type, that uniquely identify each item, or value, in the dictionary. Other programming languages refer to dictionaries as hash tables, hash maps, or associative arrays, which gives a clue to how they work behind the scenes.

In this lab, we’ll learn how to create and use dictionaries in Python. Dictionaries are a very powerful and useful data structure in Python, with many uses. Let’s see how they work!