Explore pandas.Series.str.split() method (4 examples)

Updated: February 19, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


The pandas library in Python is a powerhouse for data manipulation and analysis, specifically designed to ease the handling of structured data. One of the versatile features provided by pandas is the str.split() method for Series objects. This method splits the strings in each element of the series according to a specified delimiter. In this tutorial, we’ll explore the str.split() method through four comprehensive examples, ranging from basic to advanced applications.

The Purpose of Series.str.split()

Before diving into examples, it’s crucial to understand what str.split() does. This method splits each string in the Series/Index by the given separator/delimiter. If no separator is specified, the method will default to splitting using white space as the delimiter. This functionality is incredibly useful in data cleansing, preprocessing, and feature extraction tasks.

Basic Usage

Let’s start with the most straightforward application of str.split().

import pandas as pd

# Sample Series
data = pd.Series(['John Doe', 'Jane Doe', 'Alice Cooper'])

# Splitting names
names_split = data.str.split()

This will produce:

0        [John, Doe]
1        [Jane, Doe]
2    [Alice, Cooper]

As you can see, each string in the series has been split into a list of components based on white space.

Specifying Delimiters

Next, let’s explore how to specify a different delimiter for splitting the strings.

import pandas as pd

data = pd.Series(['John,Doe', 'Jane-Doe', 'Alice:Cooper'])

# Splitting names with different delimiters
names_comma = data.str.split(',')

names_dash = data.str.split('-')

names_colon = data.str.split(':')

This will yield three different outputs, demonstrating how the method effectively splits strings using the specified delimiters.

Handling Empty Strings and NaN Values

Dealing with missing or empty values is a common issue in data preparation. Let’s see how str.split() behaves in such scenarios.

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

# Sample Series with NaN and empty strings
data = pd.Series(['John Doe', '', 'Alice Cooper', np.nan])

# Splitting considering NaN and empty strings
names_split = data.str.split().replace('', np.nan).dropna()

This method ensures that empty strings and NaN values are handled gracefully, preventing any unintended issues during data manipulation.

Expanding Results into Separate Columns

Sometimes, you may want to split a string and expand the resulting list into separate DataFrame columns. This can be achieved using the expand=True parameter.

import pandas as pd

# Sample Series
data = pd.Series(['John Doe;Jane Doe;Alice Cooper'])

# Expanding into columns
expanded_data = data.str.split(';', expand=True)

The result will be a DataFrame where each split component resides in its column.

Limiting The Number of Splits

In certain scenarios, you might want to limit the number of splits performed on each string. This can be done using the maxsplit argument.

import pandas as pd

data = pd.Series(['John Doe Department', 'Jane Doe Division', 'Alice Cooper Group'])

# Splitting with maxsplit
limited_split = data.str.split(n=1)

This code splits each string only once, based on the first occurrence of white space, thereby creating a series where each element is a list of two elements.


The pandas.Series.str.split() method is a powerful tool for string manipulation within Series objects. From basic splitting based on white-space to complex parsing scenarios involving specific delimiters, handling missing values, expanding results, and limiting splits, this method covers a broad spectrum of use cases. Mastering str.split() can significantly enhance your data manipulation and preprocessing skills, making it a valuable addition to your data science toolkit.