Adventures in Machine Learning

Mastering Python’s Hash() Function: Unique IDs and Resolving Collisions

Python Hash() Function: A Comprehensive Guide

In computer programming, a hash function is a mathematical algorithm that maps a variable-sized piece of data into a fixed-sized value. In Python programming, the hash() function is used to generate hash values or unique representations of Python objects.

This article will delve into the Python hash() function, its syntax, limitations, and importance, including its use on custom objects.

Basic Syntax and Function

The hash() function in Python takes an object as an argument and returns a unique hash value for that object. The syntax is as follows:


The parameter Object can be any immutable data type, including integers, floats, and strings. The hash value is generated based on the bits that represent the object.

This hash value is used as a unique identifier for the object, and as such, it is useful in many different applications.

Examples of Hash() Function for Simple Objects

The hash() function generates different hash values for different objects, even if they share the same data type. For example, running the hash() function on two different integers will result in different hash values even if the integers are equal.

Similarly, the hash() function will return different hash values for different floats and strings.

Mutable Objects and Limitations of the hash() Function

While the hash() function works great with immutable data types, it cannot be used with mutable objects. This is because the value of mutable objects can change, and their hash value is not guaranteed to remain unique throughout their lifetime.

Attempting to hash mutable objects such as lists, sets, and dictionaries will result in an error stating that the object is an unhashable type. To get around this limitation, Python uses immutable tuples as keys in dictionaries.

This allows for the use of mutable types as values in the dictionary, but the tuple key remains constant. Additionally, the set object can only contain immutable types.

Using hash() Function on Custom Objects

In Python, we can define our own classes and objects. The hash() function can also be used on custom objects, but these objects need to implement a few additional methods.

To use the hash() function with custom objects, we need to ensure that our object is immutable. We can do this by making sure that none of the objects properties can be changed after it has been instantiated.

We can then override the __hash__() and __eq__() magic methods, which represent hash and equality functionality, respectively. The __hash__() method should return a unique integer representing the custom object.

We can use one or more of the object’s immutable properties to generate this integer. The __eq__() method compares two objects, and it should return True if they are equal and False otherwise.

Hash Function Importance

Random Distribution

One of the critical requirements of a hash function is that it should produce hash values with a random distribution. This means that hash values should not follow a predictable pattern or algorithm and should be unique for each object, as we have seen in the previous sections.

Random distribution is important because it increases the chances of generating a unique hash value for each input, enabling efficient lookup of objects in applications like databases.

Preventing Potential Security Threats

Hash functions are also used in computer security to prevent attack techniques like data tampering. Data tampering refers to unauthorized access to data or modification of data by an attacker.

A hashed value acts as a mapping of the original data and helps ensure that any alteration to the data is detected. Hashing is used in digital signatures, digital certificates, and for protecting user passwords.


In conclusion, the Python hash() function is a useful tool for generating unique hash values for immutable objects for various applications. While it cannot be used on mutable objects, Python provides solutions to work around this limitation.

By ensuring random distribution and preventing security threats, hash functions are a critical aspect of computer programming security and efficiency. Hopefully, this comprehensive guide has helped you understand the basics of Python hash() function and its importance.

Hash Collision and Resolution

Hashing is a widely used technique in computer science, but there can be times when two distinct inputs map to the same hash value, leading to a hash collision. In this article, we will discuss what hash collision is, its causes, and the techniques used to resolve it.

Understanding Hash Collision

Hash collision is a phenomenon that occurs when two different objects map to the same hash value. In other words, two different inputs generate the same hash output.

It not only results in the loss of data but can also lead to performance degradation in applications that rely on hash functions. Hash collision is an issue with hash functions, mainly because hash functions are not one-to-one functions.

That means that a hash function maps many objects onto a smaller set of hash values. This is especially true for hash functions like SHA-1, which produce fixed-length outputs regardless of input size.

It is impossible for any hash function to avoid collisions entirely, but hashing algorithms are designed in a way that reduces their probability.

Resolving Hash Collision

When hash collisions occur, it is essential to resolve them, so we know which object is associated with that particular hash value. Failure to do so could lead to errors in programs that rely on these hash functions, slowing down the program or causing it to crash.

Two popular methods of resolving hash collisions are open addressing and chaining.

Open Addressing

Open addressing is a method where the hash function is used to find an empty slot in the hash table instead of directly matching the output value to the object. If there is a collision, we move to the next available slot.

To access the data, we hash the key and follow the sequence of slots in the hash table until the desired data is located. One drawback of using open addressing is that the hash table can become filled with empty or deleted slots (tombstones), leading to performance degradation.

To address this issue, one can either keep track of unused and deleted slots or use a dynamic resizing algorithm to rehash into a larger table.


In the chaining method, each slot in the hash table references a linked list of objects that share the same hash value. When a collision occurs, the new object is simply added to the linked list.

To access the data, we first find the appropriate slot in the hash table, then search the linked list for the desired data.

Chaining offers good performance in terms of insertion and deletion, especially when the hash values are random. However, it can have poor cache performance because it requires frequent memory accesses to various parts of the memory.

Best Practices and Use Cases

Best Practices for Using Hash() Function

While the hash() function is a handy tool, some best practices should be followed when using it to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the application. The following are some best practices for using the hash() function.

1. Use Immutable Objects

Immutable objects like tuples, strings, and numbers are more reliable for use with the hash() function than mutable objects.

Since immutable objects cannot change, their hash value remains the same throughout the life of the program. 2.

Consider Hash Function Quality

Regardless of the data type used, it is essential to use a high-quality hash function to avoid hash collisions. Python provides various hash functions, and choosing one that is suitable for the data type or use case is vital.

3. Use Appropriate Hashing Algorithms

Different use cases require different hashing algorithms.

For instance, cryptographic functions like SHA-256 produce salted hashes, useful for password storage, while less complex algorithms like the FowlerNollVo (FNV) algorithm are useful for indexing.

Popular Use Cases for Hash() Function

1. Indexing

Hashing is commonly used in indexing data structures such as hash tables and dictionaries.

For instance, in a dictionary, data is accessed using a hash value, which acts as a unique identifier for each item in the dictionary. Similarly, databases use hashing techniques for indexing data for faster retrieval.

2. Data Retrieval

Hashing improves the efficiency of search algorithms since the hash value acts as a shortcut to accessing the data.

For example, if you have a list of 1,000,000 items and you want to find an item with a specific key, you can first hash the key to reduce the search space to a few hundred items, making it faster to find the desired item. 3.

Database Implementation

Hashing is useful in database implementation, where it is used to generate row-level checksums, allow data clustering, and to detect file transfers and data corruption. Hashing improves database performance by reducing the number of disk I/O operations and memory requirements.


In conclusion, hash collision is an essential concept in computer science, and understanding how to resolve it is vital to ensure the efficient operation of software applications. The use of best practices such as keeping track of unused and deleted slots, using dynamic resizing algorithms, using high-quality hash functions, and immutable objects, can help prevent hash collisions.

The Python hash() function has various use cases such as indexing, data retrieval, and database implementation. In conclusion, understanding hash collision and its resolution techniques is crucial to ensure the efficient operation of software applications.

While hash collision cannot be entirely avoided, the use of open addressing and chaining can help mitigate the issue. It is essential to follow best practices when using the hash() function to avoid encountering hash collisions, such as using high-quality hash functions and immutable objects.

The Python hash() function has various use cases, including indexing, data retrieval, and database implementation. The key takeaway is that hash collision and resolution have a significant impact on the performance and security of computer programs, and effective management of hash collisions is essential to creating efficient and scalable software applications.

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