Fix Python – How to merge dictionaries of dictionaries?

Question

Asked By – fdhex

I need to merge multiple dictionaries, here’s what I have for instance:

dict1 = {1:{"a":{A}}, 2:{"b":{B}}}

dict2 = {2:{"c":{C}}, 3:{"d":{D}}

With A B C and D being leaves of the tree, like {"info1":"value", "info2":"value2"}

There is an unknown level(depth) of dictionaries, it could be {2:{"c":{"z":{"y":{C}}}}}

In my case it represents a directory/files structure with nodes being docs and leaves being files.

I want to merge them to obtain:

 dict3 = {1:{"a":{A}}, 2:{"b":{B},"c":{C}}, 3:{"d":{D}}}

I’m not sure how I could do that easily with Python.

Now we will see solution for issue: How to merge dictionaries of dictionaries?


Answer

This is actually quite tricky – particularly if you want a useful error message when things are inconsistent, while correctly accepting duplicate but consistent entries (something no other answer here does..)

Assuming you don’t have huge numbers of entries, a recursive function is easiest:

def merge(a, b, path=None):
    "merges b into a"
    if path is None: path = []
    for key in b:
        if key in a:
            if isinstance(a[key], dict) and isinstance(b[key], dict):
                merge(a[key], b[key], path + [str(key)])
            elif a[key] == b[key]:
                pass # same leaf value
            else:
                raise Exception('Conflict at %s' % '.'.join(path + [str(key)]))
        else:
            a[key] = b[key]
    return a

# works
print(merge({1:{"a":"A"},2:{"b":"B"}}, {2:{"c":"C"},3:{"d":"D"}}))
# has conflict
merge({1:{"a":"A"},2:{"b":"B"}}, {1:{"a":"A"},2:{"b":"C"}})

note that this mutates a – the contents of b are added to a (which is also returned). If you want to keep a you could call it like merge(dict(a), b).

agf pointed out (below) that you may have more than two dicts, in which case you can use:

reduce(merge, [dict1, dict2, dict3...])

where everything will be added to dict1.

Note: I edited my initial answer to mutate the first argument; that makes the “reduce” easier to explain

PS: In python 3, you will also need from functools import reduce

This question is answered By – andrew cooke

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