Pandas: Update a specific cell in DataFrame using index and column name

Updated: February 20, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


Pandas is a powerful data manipulation library in Python, widely used for data analysis and manipulation tasks. It provides various methods to manipulate DataFrames, which are two-dimensional, size-mutable, and potentially heterogeneous tabular data structure. One common operation in data manipulation is updating the value of a specific cell in a DataFrame. This tutorial will guide you through several methods to accomplish this task, starting from basic to advanced examples.

Preparing Data

Before diving into updating specific cell values, let’s briefly review what a DataFrame is. A DataFrame is a two-dimensional, size-mutable, and potentially heterogeneous tabular data structure with labeled axes (rows and columns). DataFrames are primarily used for storing and manipulating structured data.

Creating a Sample DataFrame

import pandas as pd

# Sample DataFrame
data = {'Name': ['John', 'Anna', 'Peter', 'Linda'],
        'Age': [28, 34, 29, 32],
        'City': ['New York', 'Paris', 'Berlin', 'London']}
df = pd.DataFrame(data)


This will output:

    Name  Age      City
0   John   28  New York
1   Anna   34     Paris
2  Peter   29    Berlin
3  Linda   32    London

Updating a Specific Cell in a DataFrame

Now that we have our sample DataFrame, let’s look at how to update a specific cell. We will explore several methods, each suitable for different scenarios.

Using .loc[] for Label-Based Indexing

df.loc[0, 'Age'] = 29

This command updates the age of the first row (John) to 29. The .loc[] function allows for label-based indexing, which means you can specify the index label and column name to update a specific cell.

Using .at[] for Faster Access

.at[] provides a faster way to access a single value for updating.[0, 'City'] = 'San Francisco'

Here, we updated John’s city to ‘San Francisco’. The .at[] accessor is designed for accessing a single cell, hence it’s more efficient than .loc[] for this purpose.

Conditional Updating with .loc[]

Sometimes, you might want to update a cell based on a condition. For instance, increasing age by 1 for all over 30.

df.loc[df['Age'] > 30, 'Age'] += 1

This increments the age of Anna and Linda by 1, as they are over 30.

Advanced Scenarios

Let’s move onto some more advanced scenarios where cell updates might involve conditions across multiple columns or row and column lookups.

Using a Function to Update Cell Values

For more complex updates, it might be useful to apply a function. You can use .apply() to apply a function across the DataFrame’s axes.

def update_city(row):
    if row['Age'] > 30:
        return 'Tokyo'
        return row['City']

df['City'] = df.apply(update_city, axis=1)

This updates the city to ‘Tokyo’ for all individuals over 30 years old.

Using .where() for Conditional Updates

The .where() method offers a way to conditionally update cell values. It replaces the cells in a DataFrame where the condition is False.

df['City'] = df['City'].where(df['Age'] <= 30, 'Tokyo')

This leads to the same outcome as the previous example, updating the city to ‘Tokyo’ for individuals over 30 years old.


Updating the value of a specific cell in a DataFrame is a common requirement in data manipulation tasks. This tutorial has walked you through several methods to perform this operation, from basic label and index-based updates using .loc[] and .at[], to more advanced techniques applying conditional logic and functions. Remember, the choice of method depends on the specific requirements of the task at hand, and sometimes, more than one approach can be applied to achieve the desired outcome.