Pandas Series.searchsorted() method: A practical guide

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


The Pandas library in Python is an invaluable tool for data analysis and manipulation, providing a vast array of functions to streamline the handling of data structures. Among its features, the Series.searchsorted() method is a somewhat less talked about yet powerful function for sorted data. This guide will take you through the essentials of using searchsorted() with practical examples, from basic to more complex use cases.

Understanding Series.searchsorted()

searchsorted() in Pandas is effectively used to find indices where elements should be inserted to maintain order. It’s particularly useful when you’re working with sorted series and you want to insert new values without disrupting the order. It’s based on binary search, offering an efficient way to find insertion points.

Simple Example

import pandas as pd

# Create a sorted series
data = pd.Series([1, 3, 5, 7])

# Use searchsorted to find the index to insert new elements
index_to_insert_4 = data.searchsorted(4)
index_to_insert_8 = data.searchsorted(8)

print(f'Insert 4 at index: {index_to_insert_4}')
print(f'Insert 8 at index: {index_to_insert_8}')

This script demonstrates basic usage, indicating that to insert the number 4 into our series and maintain ascending order, it should be placed at index 2. Similarly, to add the number 8, it should be inserted at index 4.

Searching with Multiple Vales

import pandas as pd

# Create a sorted series
data = pd.Series([10, 20, 30, 40])

# Inserting multiple values
indices = data.searchsorted([15, 25, 35])
print(f'Indices to insert [15, 25, 35]: {indices}')

The method can handle lists of values, returning the insertion indices for multiple elements in a single call. Here, the method returns [1, 2, 3], indicating the indices where 15, 25, and 35 should be inserted.

Using side and sorter Parameters

import pandas as pd

# Suppose we have the following series:
data = pd.Series([2, 4, 6, 8, 10])

# We would like to ensure all duplicates are inserted to the left
left_insert = data.searchsorted(6, side='left')
print(f'Insert 6 (left): {left_insert}')

# Conversely, to insert on the right
right_insert = data.searchsorted(6, side='right')
print(f'Insert 6 (right): {right_insert}')

# Using the sorter argument
unsorted_data = pd.Series([10, 2, 8, 6, 4])

sorter = unsorted_data.argsort()

sorted_insert = unsorted_data.searchsorted(6, sorter=sorter)
print(f'Sorted insert position for 6: {sorted_insert}')

These examples illustrate the use of side and sorter parameters. side='left' inserts before any existing values, and side='right' inserts after. The sorter argument allows searchsorted() to be used with unsorted series, provided you pass a series of indices that sorts the series.

Advanced Usage

The Series.searchsorted() method in Pandas is incredibly useful for maintaining a dynamically sorted series and inserting new elements efficiently. This method finds the indices at which elements should be inserted to maintain order. Here’s how it can be applied in a real-world scenario like a data pipeline for streaming data.

Scenario: Real-Time Data Insertion in a Sorted Series

Let’s consider a scenario where we have a stream of numerical data points arriving in real-time, and we need to maintain these data points in a sorted series for immediate analysis.

Step 1: Setting Up the Initial Sorted Series

Initially, we have some data points already collected and sorted.

import pandas as pd

# Initial sorted data points
data_points = [10, 20, 30, 40, 50]
sorted_series = pd.Series(data_points)

print("Initial sorted series:")

Step 2: Inserting New Data Points Efficiently

As new data points come in, we use searchsorted() to find the correct insertion index for each new point and insert it without resorting the entire series.

# Function to insert new data point into the sorted series
def insert_new_point(sorted_series, new_point):
    # Find the index to insert the new data point
    insert_index = sorted_series.searchsorted(new_point)
    # Insert the new data point at the found index
    # Note: `insert_index` could be a scalar or array-like, hence we handle both
    sorted_series = pd.concat([sorted_series.iloc[:insert_index], pd.Series([new_point]), sorted_series.iloc[insert_index:]]).reset_index(drop=True)
    return sorted_series

# Example new data points arriving in real-time
new_points = [25, 5, 35, 60]

for point in new_points:
    sorted_series = insert_new_point(sorted_series, point)
    print(f"After inserting {point}:")


  • The insert_new_point function takes the sorted series and a new data point as inputs.
  • It uses searchsorted() to find the right index in the sorted series where the new point should be inserted to maintain the sorted order.
  • The new data point is then inserted into the series at the calculated index. We use pd.concat() to concatenate the parts before and after the insertion point with the new data point, effectively inserting the new point into the series.
  • The series is updated in real-time as new points come in, without needing to resort the entire series each time, ensuring efficient data handling and maintaining the sorted state.


The Series.searchsorted() method is a testament to the flexibility and power of the Pandas library, catering to both simple and advanced sorting and insertion tasks. By understanding how to effectively utilize this method, data scientists and analysts can manage sorted data more efficiently, enhancing their data manipulation tasks and pipelines. Whether you’re inserting single values or dealing with streams of incoming data, searchsorted() proves to be an indispensable tool in the efficient handling of sorted data.