What does ** (double star/asterisk) and * (star/asterisk) do for parameters?

The *args and **kwargs is a common idiom to allow arbitrary number of arguments to functions as described in the section more on defining functions in the Python documentation.

The *args will give you all function parameters as a tuple:

def foo(*args):
    for a in args:

# 1

# 1
# 2
# 3

The **kwargs will give you all
keyword arguments except for those corresponding to a formal parameter as a dictionary.

def bar(**kwargs):
    for a in kwargs:
        print(a, kwargs[a])  

bar(name="one", age=27)
# name one
# age 27

Both idioms can be mixed with normal arguments to allow a set of fixed and some variable arguments:

def foo(kind, *args, **kwargs):

It is also possible to use this the other way around:

def foo(a, b, c):
    print(a, b, c)

obj = {'b':10, 'c':'lee'}

# 100 10 lee

Another usage of the *l idiom is to unpack argument lists when calling a function.

def foo(bar, lee):
    print(bar, lee)

l = [1,2]

# 1 2

In Python 3 it is possible to use *l on the left side of an assignment (Extended Iterable Unpacking), though it gives a list instead of a tuple in this context:

first, *rest = [1,2,3,4]
first, *l, last = [1,2,3,4]

Also Python 3 adds new semantic (refer PEP 3102):

def func(arg1, arg2, arg3, *, kwarg1, kwarg2):

Such function accepts only 3 positional arguments, and everything after * can only be passed as keyword arguments.


  • A Python dict, semantically used for keyword argument passing, are arbitrarily ordered. However, in Python 3.6, keyword arguments are guaranteed to remember insertion order.
  • “The order of elements in **kwargs now corresponds to the order in which keyword arguments were passed to the function.” – What’s New In Python 3.6
  • In fact, all dicts in CPython 3.6 will remember insertion order as an implementation detail, this becomes standard in Python 3.7.

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