Mathematica Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Mathematica. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Suppose if I have following list


How to find rows that have max value in 3rd column, in this case

share|improve this question
How big is your real life list? I think Pick would probably be fastest (@J.M solution) if the list is long. – Mike Honeychurch Jan 28 '12 at 23:23
up vote 20 down vote accepted


dat = {{10, b, 30}, {100, a, 40}, {1000, b, 10}, {1000, b, 70}, {100, b, 20}, {10, b, 70}};

Perhaps most directly:

Cases[dat, {_, _, Max@dat[[All, 3]]}]

More approaches:

  • Last @ SplitBy[SortBy[dat, {#[[3]] &}], #[[3]] &]

  • Pick[dat, #, Max@#] &@dat[[All, 3]]

  • Reap[Fold[(If[#2[[3]] >= #, Sow@#2]; #2[[3]]) &, dat]][[2, 1]]

Of these Pick appears to be concise and efficient, so it is my recommendation.

Edit: Position and Extract are three times as efficient as Pick on some data. Using Transpose is slightly more efficient on packed rectangular data.

  • dat ~Extract~ Position[#, Max@#] & @ dat[[All, 3]]

  • dat ~Extract~ Position[#, Max@#] & @ Part[dat\[Transpose], 3]

Here are some timings performed in version 7:

SetAttributes[timeAvg, HoldFirst]
timeAvg[func_] := Do[If[# > 0.3, Return[#/5^i]] & @@ Timing@Do[func, {5^i}], {i, 0, 15}]

dat = RandomInteger[99999, {500000, 3}];

Cases[dat, {_, _, Max@dat[[All, 3]]}]                          // timeAvg
Last@SplitBy[SortBy[dat, {#[[3]] &}], #[[3]] &]                // timeAvg
Pick[dat, #, Max@#] &@dat[[All, 3]]                            // timeAvg
Reap[Fold[(If[#2[[3]] >= #, Sow@#2]; #2[[3]]) &, dat]][[2, 1]] // timeAvg
dat ~Extract~ Position[#, Max@#] &@dat[[All, 3]]               // timeAvg
dat ~Extract~ Position[#, Max@#] &@Part[dat\[Transpose], 3]    // timeAvg







(In actuality I restarted the Kernel between each individual timing line as otherwise each run gets slower, unfairly biasing the test toward the earlier lines.)

These can be further optimized by using faster position functions for numeric data.
Michael E2 recommended compiling (probably faster in versions after 7):

pos = Compile[{{list, _Real, 1}, {pat, _Real}}, Position[list, pat]];
dat ~Extract~ pos[#, Max@#] & @ Part[dat\[Transpose], 3] // timeAvg


My favorite method is SparseArray properties:

spos = SparseArray[Unitize[#], Automatic, 1]["AdjacencyLists"] &;
dat[[spos[# - Max@#]]] & @ Part[dat\[Transpose], 3] // timeAvg


This is now about 30X faster than Pick, my original recommendation.

share|improve this answer
In this case, the #[[3]] & is replaceable with Last[], e.g. Last[SplitBy[SortBy[data, Last], Last]]. – J. M. Jan 28 '12 at 23:26
@J.M. I was attempting to keep this general. – Mr.Wizard Jan 28 '12 at 23:30
@Istvan perhaps, but I was typing these (and updating the question) as I thought of them. I didn't compare performance (or significantly consider performance, really) until after I posted the four methods. After testing I could have changed my answer to keep only the Pick version but by that time someone else posted a method using Pick. Also, I think it is interesting to show different approaches, even if for a specific problem some of them are contrived or awkward because they may not be on another problem. – Mr.Wizard Jan 29 '12 at 16:56
The compiled version of Position is even faster (I think it is optimized to check only level 1). Try sticking pos = Compile[{{list, _Real, 1}, {pat, _Real}}, Position[list, pat]] into the last two. I get a speedup of more than a factor of 2 in V9.0.1 – Michael E2 Sep 18 '13 at 18:38
This is the earliest ref. to timeAvg I've found on Mma.SE. I thought you might like to compare it with a new function in V10, Needs["GeneralUtilities"]; AccurateTiming[Range[10^4]]`. – Michael E2 Jul 15 '14 at 5:44

This works:

data = {{10, b, 30}, {100, a, 40}, {1000, b, 10}, {1000, b, 70}, {100, b, 20}, {10, b, 70}};
Pick[data, data[[All, 3]], Max[data[[All, 3]]]]
share|improve this answer
Or maybe Pick[#, #[[All, 3]], Max[Last /@ #]] &[data], following Spartacus's style. – J. M. Jan 28 '12 at 23:31
It appears that I copied this in my edit but I did not. For what it's worth you are doing the extraction twice which seems inefficient, so I think mine is still better. EDIT I see you see that now. I need to refresh the page more often I guess. – Mr.Wizard Jan 28 '12 at 23:32
Not that much; but I suppose a With[] can be useful... – J. M. Jan 28 '12 at 23:36

You can use Select to choose only those rows with the maximum value in the third column.

list = {{10, b, 30}, {100, a, 40}, {1000, b, 10}, {1000, b, 70}, {100,
    b, 20}, {10, b, 70}};

With[{max = Max@list[[All, 3]]}, Select[list, (#[[3]] == max) &]]
share|improve this answer

Here's a method with a stable sort involving two of my favorite functions, Reap and Sow:

Module[{a = -Infinity}, 
  Sow[{##}, a = Max[a, #3]; #3] & @@@ dat, _, 
  If[#1 == a, #2, Unevaluated[Sequence[]]] &
 ][[2, 1]]

The way Reap and Sow work is that Sow attaches to each term a tag, and Reap collects those tags according to a Pattern (second parameter), and a function can then be applied to the collected terms (third parameter).

In this case, I use the third element of the tuple as the tag, while keeping a running total of the Max value, a. And for the function, it determines which tuple has a tag equal to the Max, spitting out an empty Sequence if it doesn't.

As a curious note, initially I tried attaching the test to the Pattern parameter, but it is applied before the list has been fully traversed, so it included tuples that did not have a max third term. Apparently, the function is applied after the list has been traversed, so a had attained its maximum value by the point it was used.

share|improve this answer

Update: Here's a nice and short one (if not fast):

data = {{10, b, 30}, {100, a, 40}, {1000, b, 10}, {1000, b, 70}, {100,
 b, 20}, {10, b, 70}}

Last@SplitBy[SortBy[data, Last], Last]

(* ==> {{10, b, 70}, {1000, b, 70}} *)

You got many nice solutions. I'd like to add one more, which is less general, and only works when there's a singe maximum, but illustrates nicely how Ordering is useful for minimum/maximum element problems:

Analogously to SortBy, we can define

MaxBy[list_, fun_] := list[[First@Ordering[fun /@ list, -1]]]

Then with your data,

MaxBy[data, Last]

Again, this will give you a single result only, not two as in your example.

share|improve this answer
@Prashant: I'll only note that, as shown by the result of SortBy[data, Last], the sorting method used is unstable. It may or may not matter for your application, but you need to keep this in mind. – J. M. Jan 28 '12 at 23:58

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.