My goal is to take a CSV that contains 50 rows and one column and import the data into a feature class with over 3,000 rows using arcpy. I want to pick a random row from the CSV and then iterate through the rows in the featureclass.

I will need to use this workflow constantly, but am unsure of how to read the CSV into arcpy.

  • 2
    So you want to random select a row in the CSV and insert the same value into all 3000 rows?
    – ianbroad
    Apr 3, 2014 at 16:39
  • I want to random select a row, insert that value into the feature class row, and then repeat. So, I don't want the same value in all 3000 Apr 3, 2014 at 16:42
  • 1
    Is the .csv absolutely necessary? Why not just insert a randomly generated value into the FC using only Python?
    – Aaron
    Apr 3, 2014 at 16:45
  • I was able to do that for fake phone number generation, but it gets tricky with names. I was thinking the best way would be to have a list of fake names in a csv, rather than trying to generate names. Apr 3, 2014 at 16:46
  • OK, I see now. Thanks! Please consider updating your post to include this ancillary info.
    – Aaron
    Apr 3, 2014 at 16:49

2 Answers 2


I would use random.choice() to make a random selection from the .csv file and insert that into your FC rows using an Update Cursor.

import arcpy, csv, random

# Read csv file with names
file = r'C:\path\to\your\file.csv'
reader = csv.reader(open(file, "rb"), delimiter = ",", skipinitialspace=True)
listofnames = [name for line in reader for name in line]

# Update rows with random name selection
fc = r'C:\path\to\your\fc'

with arcpy.da.UpdateCursor(fc, ["yourfield"]) as cursor:
    for row in cursor:
        rand = random.choice(listofnames)
        row[0] = rand
  • Aaron, thanks a great deal. Just for my own clarification, when is the syntax for listofnames doing? Your creating a list, and the 'name for line in reader' seems to make sense, but why does it need to be repeated? Apr 3, 2014 at 17:58
  • This is a list comprehension that generates a list from your csv file. It is looping through the lines because my csv values were in a vertical structure as opposed to a horizontal structure. Essentially, it creates a list like ['a','b','c'] that random.choice() can select from rather than one that it cannot e.g. [['a','b','c']].
    – Aaron
    Apr 3, 2014 at 18:16
import arcpy
import random
import csv

fc = "C:/stuff.shp"

csv_rows = []

with open("C:/some.csv", "rb") as csvfile:
    reader = csv.reader(csvfile)
    for line in reader:

with arcpy.da.UpdateCursor(fc, ("FIELD2UPDATE")) as update:
    for row in update:
        random = random.randint(0, 49)
        value = csv_rows[random]
        row[0] = str(value)

Edited to add updateRow

  • 2
    I would do random = random.randint(0, len(csv_rows)-1) instead, in case the CSV grows or shrinks.
    – nmpeterson
    Apr 3, 2014 at 17:58
  • Yeah, that would definitely be a good idea, but I like @Aarons use of random.choice()
    – ianbroad
    Apr 3, 2014 at 18:28

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