lindex , a built-in Tcl command, retrieves an element from a list or a nested list.

See Also

Trees as nested lists
lindex forward compatibility
identity function
one use for lindex


official reference
TIP 22 : Multiple Arguments to lindex
TIP 45 : Empty index lists for lindex and lset


lindex list ?index ...?
lindex list indexList


Returns the index'th element from list, where the first element in list is at index 0. If the index is negative or greater than or equal to the number of elements in list, an empty string is returned. If there is no index argument, list is returned even if it is not a well-formed list.

index can be any of the forms described for string indices.

Where multiple index arguments are given, they specify a path to an element in a nested list. For example:

lindex {{a b c} {d e f} {g h i}} 1 1 ;# -> e

If one index' is given, and it is a list of indexes, those indexes also specify a path to a element in a nested list. Thus, these three are equivalent:

lindex $nestedList 1 2 3
lindex $nestedList {1 2 3}
lindex [lindex [lindex $nestedList 1] 2] 3

Without any indices, or with an empty indexList, the contents of the list argument are returned without further interpretation, meaning that in this case, list isn't even checked to make sure it is a properly formatted list. Therefore, any value at all is valid. This can be useful when a function that simply returns its argument is needed.


LES 2005-08-15: What does lindex do that lrange doesn't? pmaage take less time schlenk direct access to elements in nested lists.

LES Look, Ma! No lindex!

proc picknested {argList  args} {
   for  {set _depth 0} {$_depth < [llength $args]} {incr _depth} {
       set _range [lrange $args $_depth $_depth]
       set argList {*}[lrange $argList $_range $_range]
   return $argList


% picknested {{a b c} {d e {foo bar hey} f} {g h i}}  0
a b c

% picknested {{a b c} {d e {foo bar hey} f} {g h i}}  0 1

% picknested {{a b c} {d e {foo bar hey} f} {g h i}}  1 2
foo bar hey

% picknested {{a b c} {d e {foo bar hey} f} {g h i}}  1 2 0

% picknested {{a b c} {d e {foo bar hey} f} {g h i}}  1 2 2

schlenk: Should have said 'easy' access. You can do the same with lrange, yes. You do not need all list commands, most can be replaced by a proc (think lsearch, lsort, lreplace, linsert, lindex). Its just a tradeoff how many list commands exist. (see struct::list for some more). Having more or fewer commands is mostly an optimization in time or space.

Lars H: I'd go further and say lrange still doesn't give you access to the nested elements--it's really {*} (and in the case of the indices shimmering) that you rely on to pick out elements of lists (undo whatever list-quoting were applied to them). But why bother with lrange, when it's all much simpler with foreach?

proc picknested2 {L args} {
    foreach index $args {
        if {$index < 0} then {return {}}
        foreach L $L {
            if {[incr index -1] < 0} then {break}
        if {$index >= 0} then {return {}}
    return $L

Remove the first and last if if you don't worry about correct behaviour for out-of-bounds indices.

AMG, perhaps echoing Lars H: lrange can't directly be used to obtain a single element from a list. The closest it comes is to return a list whose sole element is the one you're looking for. The difference is the same as that between a value and a single-element list containing that value. For many values, there is no script-visible difference (unless you're measuring performance, see shimmering). But you cannot rely on this in general. Here's an example:

lindex {{hello world} {how are you}} 0    ;# hello world
lrange {{hello world} {how are you}} 0 0  ;# {hello world}