If I have an association A with a key of X then Keys[A} yields {...,X...} with X being unevaluated. Now suppose I assign X a value, say 2 for simplicity, then A[X] evaluates as A[2] rather than A[X] and return a failure due to a missing key 2. How do I stop X being evaluated so I can treat it as a symbolic value?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This sounds like a recipe for making an unusable Association, and bad practice. Is there a reason to do things this way? Why not use strings for keys instead of symbols? $\endgroup$
    – Jason B.
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ Mea culpa! I’m too used to LISP $\endgroup$
    – Nick
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


You can do this by either using Unevaluated or by Blocking the key:

Clear[assoc, x];
assoc = <|x -> 1|>
x = 2;
Block[{x}, Lookup[assoc, x]]

<|x -> 1|>

<|x -> 1|>

Missing["KeyAbsent", 2]



To obtain the keys without evaluating them, use the newly added (in V12, IIRC) 2nd argument of Keys:

Keys[assoc, Hold]



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