Explore pandas.Series.apply() method (through examples)

Updated: February 18, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


The pandas.Series.apply() method is an essential tool in the Python pandas library, enabling users to apply a function along an axis of a DataFrame or on the values in a Series. This versatility makes apply() highly valuable for data manipulation and transformation in data science projects. In this tutorial, we’ll dive deep into the use of apply() with Series, progressing from basic examples to more advanced use cases.


  • A basic understanding of Python and pandas
  • An installation of Python and pandas. To install pandas, you can use pip install pandas

Let’s begin by importing pandas:

import pandas as pd

Basic Usage of apply()

At its core, the apply() method allows you to execute a function on each item in a pandas Series. Here’s a simple example:

series = pd.Series([1, 2, 3, 4])
series.apply(lambda x: x * 2)


0    2
1    4
2    6
3    8
dtype: int64

This example demonstrates how apply() can be used to double the values in a Series. The lambda function lambda x: x * 2 is applied to each element, resulting in a new Series where each element is twice its original value.

Applying User-defined Functions

apply() isn’t limited to lambda functions; it also works well with user-defined functions. Suppose you want to classify the numbers in a Series as even or odd:

def classify_number(x):
    return 'Even' if x % 2 == 0 else 'Odd'

series = pd.Series([1, 2, 3, 4, 5])


0     Odd
1     Even
2     Odd
3     Even
4     Odd
dtype: object

Through this example, you can see how apply() allows for more complex logic by using user-defined functions, providing a straightforward path for the creation of custom data transformations.

Advanced Usage: Passing Additional Arguments

Beyond its basic utilization, apply() offers flexibility to pass additional arguments to the function being applied. This feature can be particularly useful for functions that require more than one input parameter. Here’s how you can implement this:

def multiply(x, multiplier):
    return x * multiplier

series = pd.Series([1, 2, 3, 4])
series.apply(multiply, args=(5,))


0     5
1    10
2    15
3    20
dtype: int64

In this scenario, the apply() method is used to multiply each element in the Series by 5, showcasing the use of the args parameter to pass extra arguments to the applied function.

Applying Functions That Return Multiple Values

In some cases, the function applied may return multiple values for each item. Here’s an example of how to handle such scenarios:

def multiply_and_divide(x):
    return x * 2, x / 2

series = pd.Series([1, 2, 3, 4])
result = series.apply(multiply_and_divide)


0    (2, 0.5)
1    (4, 1.0)
2    (6, 1.5)
3    (8, 2.0)
dtype: object

This output demonstrates that apply() can effectively manage functions returning tuples, storing each tuple as a single element in the resulting Series.

Performance Considerations

While apply() is incredibly versatile, it’s essential to be mindful of its performance implications, especially when working with large datasets. Vectorized operations with pandas or NumPy functions often offer more efficient alternatives.


The apply() method is a powerful tool for data transformation in pandas, capable of accommodating a wide range of functionalities, from simple arithmetic operations to more complex, custom transformations. Throughout this tutorial, we’ve explored its versatility through various examples, demonstrating its potential to streamline data manipulation tasks in Python. As with any tool, remember to consider the performance implications when applying it to large datasets.