Today I was asked if I knew how to make a recursively default dictionary (although not in so many words). What that means is that it’s a dictionary (or hash) which is defaulted to an empty version of itself for every item access. That way, you can throw data into a multi-dimensional dictionary without regard for whether keys already exist, like so:

h["a"]["b"]["c"] = 5

Without having to first initialise h[“a”] and h[“a”][“b”].

A dictionary with a default value of an empty hash sprang to mind, but after trying it out I realised that this only works for one level. Recursion was evidently required.

So, here’s the python solution:

from collections import defaultdict
new_dict = lambda: defaultdict(new_dict)
h = defaultdict(new_dict)

And the ruby, which seems overly noisy:

new_hash = lambda { |hash, key| hash[key] = &new_hash }
h =