Attribute access methods

This blog post is about the magic methods related to attribute access in python. This knowledge is would help you learning advanced concepts such as properties, descriptor, slots etc. Here I when I classes I refer to new-style classes which are classes that inherit object in Python2 (either directly or indirectly) and All classes in Python3.


This method is called when accessing an un-defined attribute in an object. The attribute is searched in self instance object, type's class object and its entire inheritence chain before invoking the __getattr__ method. __getattr__ and all attribute access methods like __setattr__,__delattr__,__getattribute__ is effective even if one of the parent class implements these method. if a class in inheritence chain has custom __getattr__ (or anyone of the attribute access method) defined and you dont want this behaviour then you can revert to normal behaviour by overridding the method with the default behaviou

  class Test2(Test1):
  def __getattr__(self,name):

Unlike __getattr__, __setattr__ is called on attribute assignment irrespective of whether the attribute is already defined or not. Be cautious of using __setattr__ because an assignment in __setattr__ on self causes infinite recursion like shown below. To avoid infinite recursion you should use __dict__ based assignment. In __dict__ based assignment you are not assigning to self but on __dict__. surprisingly setattr builtin function is not an alternative to __dict__ based assignment and it using it would also cause infinite recursion.

class TestClass():
  def __setattr__(self,name,value): = value ### This will cause infinite recursion
    self.__dict__ = {name:value} ### This will cause infinite recursion
    self.__dict__[name] = value ### this will not cause infinite recursion since this is an assignment on __dict__ and not on self i.e the object.
    setattr(self,name) =  value ### this will also cause infinite recursion

This method is similar to __setattr__ but called on attribute deletion.


This method is available only in new style classes. This method is called on any attribute access irrespective of it being defined or un-defined. This is the method that delegates the call to __getattr__ on undefined attribute access. Hence if you override __getattribute__ make sure you either explicitly call __getattr__ or raise an AttributeError exception on undefined attribute access.