Altcademy - a Forbes magazine logo Best Coding Bootcamp 2023

How to drop column in Pandas

Understanding Pandas DataFrames

Before we dive into the process of dropping a column, it's essential to understand what a DataFrame is. A DataFrame can be thought of as a table, much like one you'd find in a spreadsheet application like Microsoft Excel. Each column in this table represents a series of values, or a 'feature', that holds some form of data, whether it be numbers, strings, or dates.

Getting Started with Pandas

To begin working with Pandas, we first need to import the library. If you don't have Pandas installed, you can install it using pip install pandas. Once installed, you can import it into your Python script or Jupyter notebook as follows:

import pandas as pd

Now, let's create a simple DataFrame to work with:

# Creating a simple DataFrame
data = {
    'Name': ['Alice', 'Bob', 'Charlie', 'David'],
    'Age': [24, 27, 22, 32],
    'City': ['New York', 'Los Angeles', 'Chicago', 'Houston']

df = pd.DataFrame(data)

This code will generate the following DataFrame:

      Name  Age         City
0    Alice   24     New York
1      Bob   27  Los Angeles
2  Charlie   22      Chicago
3    David   32      Houston

Why Drop a Column?

There are multiple reasons why you might want to remove a column from a DataFrame. Perhaps the column is not relevant to your analysis, or it contains sensitive information that should not be processed. Whatever the reason, Pandas provides an intuitive way to remove columns.

Dropping a Column Using drop

The drop method is the swiss army knife for removing rows or columns from a DataFrame. To drop a column, you'll need to specify two arguments: the name of the column and the axis. In Pandas, axis=0 refers to rows, and axis=1 refers to columns.

Here's how you can drop the 'Age' column from our DataFrame:

df_dropped = df.drop('Age', axis=1)

After executing the code above, you'll see that the 'Age' column has been removed:

      Name         City
0    Alice     New York
1      Bob  Los Angeles
2  Charlie      Chicago
3    David      Houston

In-Place Deletion

If you want to remove the column from the original DataFrame without having to create a new one, you can use the inplace=True parameter:

df.drop('Age', axis=1, inplace=True)

This will modify the original df DataFrame and you'll get the same result as before, but without the need to assign the result to a new variable.

Dropping Multiple Columns

Sometimes, you might want to remove more than one column. This can be done by passing a list of column names to the drop method:

df.drop(['Age', 'City'], axis=1, inplace=True)

Now, both 'Age' and 'City' columns will be removed:

0    Alice
1      Bob
2  Charlie
3    David

Common Pitfalls

One common mistake is to forget to set the axis parameter, which will result in an error or unintended behavior. Always remember that axis=1 is for columns.

Another pitfall is trying to drop a column that doesn't exist. This will raise a KeyError. You can avoid this by checking if the column exists before attempting to drop it:

if 'Age' in df.columns:
    df.drop('Age', axis=1, inplace=True)

Intuition and Analogies

Think of a DataFrame as a tree filled with branches (columns). Sometimes, a branch might be dead or unnecessary, and just like in gardening, you might decide it's best to prune it to keep the tree healthy. Dropping a column in Pandas is akin to this pruning process, where you remove parts that are no longer needed for the tree (your analysis) to flourish.


Managing DataFrames is a crucial skill in data analysis and Pandas provides a robust set of tools to handle data efficiently. Dropping columns is a common task, and now you know how to do it with ease and confidence. Remember, the key to mastering data manipulation is practice. So, go ahead and tinker with your DataFrames, drop some columns, and watch your data transform. Just like a sculptor chiseling away at marble, each column you drop shapes the final masterpiece of your analysis.