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JSONPath Syntax

Python JSONPath's default syntax is an opinionated combination of JSONPath features from existing, popular implementations and RFC 9535. If you're already familiar with JSONPath syntax, skip to notable differences.

Imagine a JSON document as a tree structure, where each object (mapping) and array can contain more objects, arrays and scalar values. Every object, array and scalar value is a node in the tree, and the outermost object or array is the "root" node.

For our purposes, a JSON "document" could be a file containing valid JSON data, a Python string containing valid JSON data, or a Python Object made up of dictionaries (or any Mapping), lists (or any Sequence), strings, etc.

We chain selectors together to retrieve nodes from the target document. Each selector operates on the nodes matched by preceding selectors. What follows is a description of those selectors.


Root ($)

$ refers to the first node in the target document, be it an object or an array. Unless referencing the root node from inside a filter expression, $ is optional. The following two examples are equivalent.


An empty path or a path containing just the root ($) selector returns the input data in its entirety.

Properties (.thing, [thing] or ['thing'])

Select nodes by property/key name using dot notation (.something) or bracket notation ([something]). If a target property/key contains reserved characters, it must use bracket notation and be enclosed in quotes (['thing']).

A dot in front of bracket notation is OK, but unnecessary. The following examples are equivalent.


Array indices ([0] or [-1])

Select an item from an array by its index. Indices are zero-based and enclosed in brackets. If the index is negative, items are selected from the end of the array. Considering example data from the top of this page, the following examples are equivalent.


Wildcard (.* or [*])

Select all elements from an array or all values from an object using *. These two examples are equivalent.


Keys (.~ or [~])

New in version 0.6.0

Select keys/properties from an object using ~.


Slices ([0:-1] or [-1:0:-1])

Select a range of elements from an array using slice notation. The start index, stop index and step are all optional. These examples are equivalent.


Lists ([1, 2, 10:20])

Select multiple indices, slices or properties using list notation (sometimes known as a "union" or "segment", we use "union" to mean something else).

$..products.*.[title, price]

Recursive descent (..)

The .. selector visits every node beneath the current selection. If a property selector, using dot notation, follows .., the dot is optional. These two examples are equivalent.


Filters ([?EXPRESSION])

Filters allow you to remove nodes from a selection using a Boolean expression. A filter query is a JSONPath query nested within a filter expression. Every filter query must start with the root identifier ($), the current node identifier (@) or the filter context identifier (_).

$..products[?(@.price < $.price_cap)]
$..products[?@.price < $.price_cap]

When filtering a mapping-like object, # references the current key/property and @ references the current value associated with #. When filtering a sequence-like object, @ references the current item and # will hold the item's index in the sequence.

Comparison operators include ==, !=, <, >, <= and >=. Plus <> as an alias for !=.

in and contains are membership operators. left in right is equivalent to right contains left.

&& and || are logical operators and terms can be grouped with parentheses. and and or work too.

=~ matches the left value with a regular expression literal. Regular expressions use a syntax similar to that found in JavaScript, where the pattern to match is surrounded by slashes, optionally followed by flags.

$..products[?(@.description =~ /.*trainers/i)]

A filter query on its own - one that is not part of a comparison expression - is an existence test. We also support comparing a filter query to the special undefined keyword. These two example are equivalent.

$..products[?@.sale_price == undefined]

Filter expressions can call predefined function extensions too.

$.categories[?count(@.products.*) >= 2]

Fake root (^)

New in version 0.11.0

This non-standard "fake root" identifier behaves like the standard root identifier ($), but wraps the target JSON document in a single-element array, so as to make it selectable with a filter selector.

^[?length(categories) > 0]

Union (|) and intersection (&)

Union (|) and intersection (&) are similar to Python's set operations, but we don't dedupe the matches (matches will often contain unhashable objects).

The | operator combines matches from two or more paths. This example selects a single list of all prices, plus the price cap as the last element.

$..products.*.price | $.price_cap

The & operator produces matches that are common to both left and right paths. This example would select the list of products that are common to both the "footwear" and "headwear" categories.

$.categories[?( == 'footwear')].products.* & $.categories[?( == 'headwear')].products.*

Note that | and & are not allowed inside filter expressions.

Notable differences

This is a list of things that you might find in other JSONPath implementation that we don't support (yet).

  • We don't support extension functions of the form selector.func().
  • We always return a list of matches from jsonpath.findall(), never a scalar value.
  • We do not support arithmetic in filter expression.
  • We don't allow dotted array indices. An array index must be surrounded by square brackets.
  • Python JSONPath is strictly read only. There are no update "selectors", but we do provide methods for converting JSONPathMatch instances to JSONPointers, and a JSONPatch builder API for modifying JSON-like data structures using said pointers.

And this is a list of areas where we deviate from RFC 9535.

  • The root token (default $) is optional and paths starting with a dot (.) are OK. .thing is the same as $.thing, as is thing, $[thing] and $["thing"].
  • The built-in match() and search() filter functions use Python's standard library re module, which, at least, doesn't support Unicode properties. We might add an implementation of match() and search() using the third party regex package in the future.
  • We don't require property names to be quoted inside a bracketed selection, unless the name contains reserved characters.
  • We don't require the recursive descent segment to have a selector. $.. is equivalent to $..*.
  • We support explicit comparisons to undefined as well as implicit existence tests.
  • Float literals without a fractional digit are OK. 1. is equivalent to 1.0.
  • We treat literals (such as true and false) as valid "basic" expressions. For example, $[?true || false], without an existence test or comparison either side of logical or, does not raise a syntax error.
  • By default, and is equivalent to && and or is equivalent to ||.
  • none and nil are aliases for null.
  • null (and its aliases), true and false can start with an upper or lower case letter.

And this is a list of features that are uncommon or unique to Python JSONPath.

  • We support membership operators in and contains, plus list/array literals.
  • | is a union operator, where matches from two or more JSONPaths are combined. This is not part of the Python API, but built-in to the JSONPath syntax.
  • & is an intersection operator, where we exclude matches that don't exist in both left and right paths. This is not part of the Python API, but built-in to the JSONPath syntax.
  • # is the current key/property or index identifier when filtering a mapping or sequence.
  • _ is a filter context identifier. With usage similar to $ and @, _ exposes arbitrary data from the filter_context argument to findall() and finditer().
  • ~ is a "keys" or "properties" selector.
  • ^ is a "fake root" identifier. It is equivalent to $, but wraps the target JSON document in a single-element array, so the root value can be conditionally selected with a filter selector.
  • =~ is the the regex match operator, matching a value to a JavaScript-style regex literal.