How to Prepend to a List in Python

Sometimes, you want to maintain a specific order of elements in your list. Prepending allows you to insert items at the beginning, ensuring they come before existing elements. Usually, the append and extend methods are used to add elements to a list in Python. Although these methods may sound similar, they serve different purposes. We need to understand the difference between them before appending an item to a list in Python. The append() method is used when you want to add a single element to a list. In contrast, the extend() method is used to add multiple elements to a list. There are several other methods to append to a list in Python. In this article, we’ll explain each of them with code examples.

If you want to learn more about lists, See Python List Tutorials

Use Slicing Operation to Prepend to a list in Python

The slicing operation can be used to prepend to a list in Python. The list slicing allows you to insert the desired value at the beginning i.e., 0th index of list. In Python, [:0] represents the portion of the list from the beginning (index 0) to the same beginning (index 0), thus creating an empty slice at the beginning of the list. The following example demonstrates how we can use slicing operation to insert element.

# initializing list 
list_x=[32, 63, 18, 42, 29]

print("Before prepending: ",list_x)

#inserting element using slicing operation
list_x[:0] = [24]

print("After prepending: ",list_x)


Before prepending:  [32, 63, 18, 42, 29]
After prepending:  [24, 32, 63, 18, 42, 29]

In the above example, we start with an existing list called list_x. To prepend an element to the list, we used list slicing. list_x[:0] represents the empty slice at the beginning of the list which is then assigned a new value i.e., 24.

After executing this code, you’ll observe that the list list_x has been updated, and 24 is now at the start of the list. This demonstrates how list slicing can be used to prepend elements to a list in Python.

Adding Elements at the Beginning of a List with the list.insert() Function

Another approach is to utilize the insert() function. This function takes two parameters as input: the index at which you wish to insert an item and the item you want to insert. When you execute the code, it will insert the specified item at the designated index. For example

# initializing list 
x = [8, 2, 9, 10, 7]

# using insert() to append at beginning
x.insert(0, 4)

# printing  list 


[4, 8, 2, 9, 10, 7]

If you want to print the list without square brackets, check this tutorial. This method is most efficient for small lists. To insert an item at the beginning, all the subsequent elements need to be shifted down by one position. Consequently, this method becomes inefficient when dealing with large lists.

Prepend to a List Using the ‘+’ Operator in Python

Another simple solution is to create a new list containing the item you want to prepend at the first index. Then, combine the two lists using the ‘+’ operator, as shown in the following code snippet.

# initializing list 
x = [8, 2, 9, 10, 7]

# using '+' operator to append at beginning
x = [4, 6, 1] + x     
# printing  list 


[4, 6, 1, 8, 2, 9, 10, 7]

You can also prepend a character using the ‘+’ operator. Let’s see another example that demonstrates how to insert a character into a list of strings.

# initializing list 
x = ['b', 'c', 'd', 'e']

# using '+' operator to append at beginning
x = ['a'] + x

# printing  list 


['a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 'e']

Th above code uses the ‘+’ operator to prepend the character ‘a’ to the x list. It then prints the updated list, which will now start with ‘a’ followed by the original elements, resulting in [‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, ‘e’].

Use the collections Module to Prepend to a List in Python

You can add a value or integer to the start of a list in Python by utilizing the deque class of collections module. First, you need to import the module and create a list of integers. Initially, this list will be treated as a string. The deque() function is used to allocate space for an integer to be inserted at the beginning of the list. Various functions are available in the deque package, including append(), appendleft(), pop(), and popleft(). To prepend an integer to the list’s start, you can employ the appendleft() function.

Let’s use ‘0’ to prepend the list at the start.

# Using Collection Module
from collections import deque

# Create a list
lst = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

# Convert the list to a deque
lst = deque(lst)

# Use appendleft to prepend 0 to the list

# Print the updated list
print("After prepending list: " + str(lst))


After prepending list: deque([0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5])


In conclusion, this article has discussed several methods to prepend items to a list in Python, each with its own advantages and use cases. These methods offer flexibility in adding items to the beginning of a list in Python, and the choice of method depends on your specific requirements and the size of the list. Prepending is useful when you need to maintain a specific order of elements in your list, ensuring that newly added items appear at the beginning.

Whether you need to insert a single element or multiple items, Python provides various approaches to cater to your needs. If you have any questions or specific topics you’d like us to address, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. We greatly value your suggestions and would be delighted to hear from you. For more Python tutorials and resources, don’t hesitate to explore further. Thank you for reading!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *