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Pandas – Apply String Functions to Category Column

In this tutorial, we will look at how to apply string functions to a category type column in Pandas with the help of some examples.

How to apply string functions to a category type column?

For appropriate category type columns in Pandas, you can use the .str accessor to apply string functions. The following is the syntax –

# apply string funciton on category column

Here, “Col” is a category type column where we apply a string function contains(). You can similarly apply other string functions.


Let’s look at some examples of applying string functions to a categorical column in Pandas. First, we will create a sample dataframe that we’ll be using throughout this tutorial.

import pandas as pd

# create a dataframe
df = pd.DataFrame({
        "Name": ["Tim", "Sarah", "Hasan", "Jyoti", "Jack"],
        "Shirt Size": ["Medium", "Small", "Small", "Medium", "Large"],
        "University": ["MIT, USA", "Stanford, USA", "MIT, USA", "IIT Delhi, India", "Cambridge, UK"]
# change to category dtype
df["Shirt Size"] = df["Shirt Size"].astype("category")
df["University"] = df["University"].astype("category")
# display the dataframe


    Name Shirt Size        University
0    Tim     Medium          MIT, USA
1  Sarah      Small     Stanford, USA
2  Hasan      Small          MIT, USA
3  Jyoti     Medium  IIT Delhi, India
4   Jack      Large     Cambridge, UK

We now have a dataframe containing the name, t-shirt size, and the university information of some students participating in a hackathon.

Note that the “Shirt Size” and “University” columns are of category type.

String function contains() on a Pandas category column

Let’s use the string function contains() to check which of the above students are from universities in the USA. For this, apply the contains() function on the “University” column with the help of the .str accessor.

# check if student is from a US university


0     True
1     True
2     True
3    False
4    False
Name: University, dtype: bool

The resulting series is of bool type. We get True if the string “USA” is present in the “University” field and False otherwise.

String function lower() on Pandas category column

Let’s look at another example, here, we’ll change the case in the “Shirt Size” column to lowercase. For this, apply the string lower() function on the “Shirt Size” column with the help of the .str accessor.

# shirt size column to lowercase
print(df["Shirt Size"].str.lower())


0    medium
1     small
2     small
3    medium
4     large
Name: Shirt Size, dtype: object

The resulting series has values in the lower case. Note that the returned series is of object type. That is, the category type of the original series is not preserved here.

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  • Piyush is a data scientist passionate about using data to understand things better and make informed decisions. In the past, he's worked as a Data Scientist for ZS and holds an engineering degree from IIT Roorkee. His hobbies include watching cricket, reading, and working on side projects.