Is Python A Compiled Language?

Is Python Compiled or Interpreted

When students begin to program in Python, they often ask; “Is Python a compiled language?” As a senior who has coding with Python for a few years now, I’m qualified to answer this question thoroughly.

There’s often a little confusion because Python is so similar to Java and Java is thought of as both a compiled and an interpreted language. However, Python is a little different than Java in this regard.

Is Python A Compiled Language?

Python is classified as both a compiled language, as well as an interpreted language. Python source code is first compiled into bytecode that is similar to machine code and then interpreted by a Python Virtual Machine which exists in the device running the python program. This implementation allows Python to be platform-independent.

Introduction to Python

Python is an extremely popular high-level and general-purpose programming language developed by Guido Van Rossum in 1991.

Further development was catered for by the Python Software Foundation. It is easy to use and understand language designed with the main focus directed towards readability of code.

Programmers can express their concepts and work in a few lines of code compared to classical languages like C or Java.

Python helps programmers to work quickly and integrate systems with much higher efficiency. Python is generally used for server-side development, software development, mathematics, and scripting of systems.

A few uses of this powerful language are:

  1. Web Application Development: We can use Python on a server to create website apps.
  2. Database Management: Python can connect to databases. We can also read and modify files using Python.
  3. Mathematical Calculations: Python is widely used to handle complex mathematical operations and handle massive data.
  4. Rapid Development: We can use Python for rapid prototyping or development of software ready for production.

The wide platform support, easy syntax, smaller code length, and the ability to run in a procedural or object-oriented way makes it the number one choice for many professionals in the industry. 

Many people wonder whether Python is a compiled language or an interpreted language. Let us delve deeper into this concept by first explaining what the two terms mean.

Compiled Languages

Compiled languages are readily converted into machine code that the processor can directly execute. They are many times faster than interpreted languages.

Compiled languages are extremely efficient and provide enhanced developer control over the hardware aspects like CPU and memory manipulation etc.

A major downside of compiled languages is that they need to be compiled manually first. This essentially means that we need to rebuild the program again every time the programmer makes a change to the code.

Interpreted Language

An interpreted language works just like a real-time interpreter would i.e. translate the language line by line. The interpreter runs through every line of the code and executes the instructions.

As it is quite obvious, interpreted languages are significantly slower than compiled languages.

However, modern programming concepts such as just-in-time compilation have greatly enhanced the speed of interpreted languages and the speed gap is smaller than ever before.

Ruling on Python: Is Python Interpreted or Compiled?

It is important to note that interpreted or compiled is not the native property of a language but the methodology of implementation. Since the majority of the languages fall in one category of implementation, we assign it such a tag.

In Python, the source code is placed in the .py extension file and firstly compiled into a very simple bytecode format generally with the .pyc extension file.

These instructions (known as bytecode) are quite similar to the instructions that are executed by the CPU but they can not be directly executed by it. They are executed by another software known as a virtual machine. 

This bytecode can then be interpreted (known as CPython) or Just-in-time compiled (PyPy) depending upon the source code. Since Python programs run directly from source code, we can loosely term it as bytecode interpreted. 

CPython is the most popular implementation of Python that also comes as the default. 

We can call CPython both a compiler and an interpreter since it compiles the source code into bytecode before interpreting it. This makes Python neither an explicitly compiled nor an interpreted language.

Another way to say this is that Python is both a compiled language and an interpreted language.


Python is popularly known as an interpreted language. However, if we dive deeper into this question we can decipher the fact that Python is not explicitly interpreted. It works by bringing together the compiled and interpreted concepts making it a hybrid language, classified as both compiled and interpreted.

If you want to learn how to program with Python, check out these 15 fun Python projects for beginners. There is a full video tutorial that walks you through each project, step-by-step. And it’s absolutely FREE!

Tim Statler

Tim Statler is a Computer Science student at Governors State University and the creator of Comp Sci Central. He lives in Crete, IL with his wife, Stefanie, and their cats, Beyoncé and Monte. When he's not studying or writing for Comp Sci Central, he's probably just hanging out or making some delicious food.

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