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Hashes
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5.3. Deleting from a Hash

Problem

You want to remove an entry from a hash so that it doesn't show up with keys, values, or each. If you were using a hash to associate salaries with employees, and an employee resigned, you'd want to remove their entry from the hash.

Solution

Use the delete function:

# remove $KEY and its value from %HASH
delete($HASH{$KEY});

Discussion

Sometimes people mistakenly try to use undef to remove an entry from a hash. undef $hash{$key} and $hash{$key} = undef both make %hash have an entry with key $key and value undef.

The delete function is the only way to remove a specific entry from a hash. Once you've deleted a key, it no longer shows up in a keys list or an each iteration, and exists will return false for that key.

This demonstrates the difference between undef and delete:

# %food_color as per Introduction
sub print_foods {
    my @foods = keys %food_color;
    my $food;

    print "Keys: @foods\n";
    print "Values: ";

    foreach $food (@foods) {
        my $color = $food_color{$food};

        if (defined $color) {
            print "$color ";
        } else {
            print "(undef) ";
        }
    }
    print "\n";
}

print "Initially:\n";
print_foods();

print "\nWith Banana undef\n";
undef $food_color{"Banana"};
print_foods();

print "\nWith Banana deleted\n";
delete $food_color{"Banana"};
print_foods();

Initially:
Keys: Banana Apple Carrot Lemon
Values: yellow red orange yellow 

With Banana undef
Keys: Banana Apple Carrot Lemon
Values: (undef) red orange yellow 

With Banana deleted
Keys: Apple Carrot Lemon
Values: red orange yellow 

As you see, if we set $food_color{"Banana"} to undef, "Banana" still shows up as a key in the hash. The entry is still there; we only succeeded in making the value undef. On the other hand, delete actually removed it from the hash  - "Banana" is no longer in the list returned by keys.

delete can also take a hash slice, deleting all listed keys at once:

delete @food_color{"Banana", "Apple", "Cabbage"};

See Also

The delete and keys functions in perlfunc (1) and in Chapter 3 of Programming Perl; we use keys in Recipe 5.4


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