Pandas: How to count the number of unique values in a Series

Updated: February 22, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


In data analysis, understanding the distribution of your dataset is essential, and one way to achieve that is by counting unique values in your data. Pandas, a powerful library in Python, simplifies this task with several methods designed explicitly for Series — one-dimensional arrays that can hold any data type. In this tutorial, we’ll explore various ways to count the number of unique values in a Series, starting from basic techniques to more advanced ones.

Getting Started

Before we dive into counting unique values, ensure you have Pandas installed. You can install it via pip:

pip install pandas

Now, let’s import Pandas and create a Series to work with:

import pandas as pd

# Creating a Series
data = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4]
series = pd.Series(data)

Method 1: Using nunique()

One of the simplest ways to count the number of unique values is using the nunique() method:

# Output: 5

This method directly returns the count of unique values in the Series.

Method 2: Using unique() and len()

Another approach is to first retrieve the unique values using the unique() method, then count them using len():

unique_values = series.unique()
# Output: 5

This method provides an array of unique values, which you can inspect before counting.

Advanced Techniques

For more detailed insights into your data’s unique values, you may want to dive deeper. Here’s how:

Using value_counts()

The value_counts() method not only counts unique values but also returns their frequency:

value_counts = series.value_counts()

This method provides a detailed view of the distribution of unique values in your Series.

Combining Unique Values with Conditions

Sometimes, you might want to count unique values that meet certain conditions. Here’s how you can combine the unique() and len() methods with boolean indexing:

condition = series > 2
filtered_series = series[condition]
unique_filtered = filtered_series.unique()
# Output: 3

This method allows for more targeted counts, focusing on subsets of your data that meet specific criteria.

Using GroupBy for Multidimensional Analysis

For datasets with multiple dimensions, you might want to analyze unique values across different categories. Here’s an example using the GroupBy functionality:

# Creating a DataFrame
import pandas as pd
data = {'Category': ['A', 'B', 'A', 'A', 'B', 'C', 'C', 'A', 'B', 'C'],
        'Values': [1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1]}
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Counting unique values in 'Values' column grouped by 'Category'
unique_counts = df.groupby('Category')['Values'].nunique()

This approach allows for a multi-dimensional analysis of unique values, offering insights into how these values distribute across categories.


Counting unique values is a fundamental aspect of data analysis that helps understand the diversity of datasets. Through this tutorial, we’ve seen how Pandas offers multiple methods to achieve this, from simple one-liners like nunique() to more complex analyses involving GroupBy. Depending on your data and the insights you’re aiming for, you can choose the method that best suits your needs, ensuring efficient and meaningful data analysis.