Python program to find N largest and smallest elements from the list

Python heapq.nlargest() and heapq.nsmallest() functions Examples: Here, we are going to learn how to find N largest and smallest elements?
Submitted by Yash Khandelwal, on April 13, 2019

Here, we learn how to find out the N largest and smallest elements from the list? Where, list and N given by the user, N may be any value but less than the list length.


There are two ways,

1. By defining a function:


  1. Define the function name largest_ele and smallest_ele.
  2. Pass two arguments in a function (l,n) : l is the list and n is the number of elements.
  3. Run the for loop n times
  4. In the loop find the maximum of the given list and append it to another list
  5. And after appending to another list remove the maximum element from the list

By the inbuilt module heapq module

If you are looking for the N smallest or largest items and N is small compared to the overall size of the collection, these functions provide superior performance.

  1. Import the heapq module
  2. Give the list
  3. Now use the function heapq.nlargest(n,l) and heapq.nsmallest(n,l) from the module to find the largest and the smallest numbers.

Python code:

# N largest and smallest element in a list 
# by function and by the help of heapq module

#function to find n largest element
def largest_ele(l,n): 
    for i in range(n):
        s.append(max(l)) #append max of list in a new list
        l.remove(max(l)) #remove max of list from the list
    print('by largest_ele function: ',s)

	#function to find n largest element
def smallest_ele(m,n): 
    for i in range(n):
        t.append(min(m))#append min of list in a new list
        m.remove(min(m))#remove min of list from the list
    print('by smallest_ele function: ',t)


# using the inbuilt module function 
# heapq.nlargest and heapq.nsmallest
import heapq
nums = [1, 8, 2, 23, 7, -4, 18, 23, 42, 37, 2]
print('BY heapq.nlargest: ',heapq.nlargest(3, nums)) # Prints [42, 37, 23]
print('BY heapq.nsmallest: ',heapq.nsmallest(3, nums)) # Prints [-4, 1, 2]


by largest_ele function:  [10, 8]
by smallest_ele function:  [0, 1]
BY heapq.nlargest:  [42, 37, 23]
BY heapq.nsmallest:  [-4, 1, 2]

Note: The nlargest() and nsmallest() functions are most appropriate if you are trying to find a relatively small number of items. If you are simply trying to find the single smallest or largest item (N=1), it is faster to use min() and max().

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