Python max()

The Python max() function returns the largest item in an iterable. It can also be used to find the largest item between two or more parameters.

The max() function has two forms:

// to find the largest item in an iterable
max(iterable, *iterables, key, default)

// to find the largest item between two or more objects
max(arg1, arg2, *args, key)

1. max() with iterable arguments

To find the largest item in an iterable, we use this syntax:

max(iterable, *iterables, key, default)

max() Parameters

  • iterable - an iterable such as list, tuple, set, dictionary, etc.
  • *iterables (optional) - any number of iterables; can be more than one
  • key (optional) - key function where the iterables are passed and comparison is performed based on its return value
  • default (optional) - default value if the given iterable is empty

Example 1: Get the largest item in a list

number = [3, 2, 8, 5, 10, 6]
largest_number = max(number);

print("The largest number is:", largest_number)


The largest number is: 10

If the items in an iterable are strings, the largest item (ordered alphabetically) is returned.

Example 2: the largest string in a list

languages = ["Python", "C Programming", "Java", "JavaScript"]
largest_string = max(languages);

print("The largest string is:", largest_string)


The largest string is: Python

In the case of dictionaries, max() returns the largest key. Let's use the key parameter so that we can find the dictionary's key having the largest value.

Example 3: max() in dictionaries

square = {2: 4, -3: 9, -1: 1, -2: 4}

# the largest key
key1 = max(square)
print("The largest key:", key1)    # 2

# the key whose value is the largest
key2 = max(square, key = lambda k: square[k])

print("The key with the largest value:", key2)    # -3

# getting the largest value
print("The largest value:", square[key2])    # 9


The largest key: 2
The key with the largest value: -3
The largest value: 9

In the second max() function, we have passed a lambda function to the key parameter.

key = lambda k: square[k]

The function returns the values of dictionaries. Based on the values (rather than the dictionary's keys), the key having the maximum value is returned.

Few Notes:

  • If we pass an empty iterator, a ValueError exception is raised. To avoid this, we can pass the default parameter.
  • If we pass more than one iterators, the largest item from the given iterators is returned.

2. max() without iterable

To find the largest object between two or more parameters, we can use this syntax:

max(arg1, arg2, *args, key)

max() parameters

  • arg1 - an object; can be numbers, strings, etc.
  • arg2 - an object; can be numbers, strings, etc.
  • *args (optional) - any number of objects
  • key (optional) - key function where each argument is passed, and comparison is performed based on its return value

Basically, the max() function finds the largest item between two or more objects.

Example 4: Find the maximum among the given numbers

result = max(4, -5, 23, 5)
print("The maximum number is:", result)


The maximum number is: 23

If you need to find the smallest item, you can use the Python min() function.