Solving Pandas NameError: name ‘NaN’ is not defined (3 solutions)

Updated: February 24, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment

The Problem

Encountering the NameError: name ‘NaN’ is not defined can be a common frustration when working with pandas, a powerful library in Python for data manipulation and analysis. This error usually arises when trying to reference NaN (Not a Number) without properly defining it or importing the necessary modules that recognize NaN as a floating-point representation of missing data. In this guide, we will explore the causes behind this error and provide concrete solutions to resolve it.

Solution 1: Import numpy and Use numpy.nan

One straightforward solution is to import the numpy library, which pandas is built upon, and utilize numpy.nan directly. This approach ensures that NaN is properly recognized as numpy’s representation of missing data in floating point accuracy.

  • Step 1: Import the numpy library at the beginning of your script.
  • Step 2: Replace any standalone instances of NaN with numpy.nan.


import numpy as np

# Example usage
value = np.nan



Notes: This is a simple and effective solution, especially if you are already working within a numpy-dependent environment. However, its limitation is the necessity to import an external library, adding possible overhead to your project.

Solution 2: Use pandas pd.NA

For projects specifically utilizing pandas for data manipulation, utilizing pd.NA is an innovative approach introduced in recent versions of pandas. This symbol represents a scalar missing value that is consistent across data types in pandas, making it a robust choice for representing missing data.

  • Step 1: Ensure your pandas version is updated to a version that supports pd.NA.
  • Step 2: Replace any instances of NaN with pd.NA.


import pandas as pd

# Example of how to use
value = pd.NA



Notes: Using pd.NA integrates seamlessly within the pandas ecosystem, supporting a consistent and type-agnostic approach to missing data. The main limitation is its compatibility with older versions of pandas, which may not support pd.NA.

Solution 3: Define NaN globally

If importing libraries is not desired, defining NaN globally at the beginning of your script as float('nan') is a Python-native approach. This method takes advantage of Python’s ability to represent NaN within its floating-point system.

  • Step 1: At the top of your script, define NaN as a global variable using float(‘nan’).
  • Step 2: Use the defined NaN variable where necessary within your script.


NaN = float('nan')

# Example of usage
value = NaN



Notes: This method is quick and does not require any external libraries, making it a lean approach. However, it might confuse others reading your code if they are not familiar with this custom definition, and it differs from the conventional ways pandas handles missing data.

Final Words

In conclusion, while the NameError: name ‘NaN’ is not defined can be frustrating, there are several approaches to correctly handle NaN values in your pandas data manipulations. Whether through external libraries like numpy, pandas-specific features, or Python’s own capabilities, resolving this error is essential for accurate and efficient data analysis.