How to write a nice code that removes all elements from given set A, that occur also in set B? I would like to use DeleteCases[] for this purpose, but have no good idea how to make it efficient.

SetDifference[A_,B_]:=DeleteCases[A, ??? ]

Or to find out if theres a ready to use function already, as in Lists as Sets there is nothing like that mentioned.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is Complement but it could be not efficient enough if you know that, for example, A has no duplicates. $\endgroup$
    – Kuba
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 10:48

3 Answers 3


There is an adequate function: Complement, e.g.:

Complement[{a, b, c, d, e}, {a, c, d}]
{b, e}

It works also with more sets, lists or with any heads, e.g.:

Complement[{a, b, c, d, e}, {a}, {c, e}, {d}]

1. Sort order

It should be noted that Complement sorts its output:

la = {e, d, c, b, a};
lb = {a, b, c};

Complement[la, lb]

{d, e}

If we want to get the original sort order, we can use DeleteElements (new in 13.1)

DeleteElements[la, lb]

{e, d}

2. Duplicates

Complement deletes duplicates, DeleteElements doesn't

la = {e, e, d, d, c, b, a};
lb = {a, b, c};

Complement[la, lb]

{d, e}

DeleteElements[la, lb]

{e, e, d, d}

To delete duplicates when using DeleteElements:

DeleteDuplicates @ DeleteElements[la, lb]

{e, d}


Using DeleteCases and Union:

   Optional[opts : Automatic | "SortAndDistinct", Automatic]] := 
    {setarray, sdiff, sdiffsorted},
    setarray = {sets};
    sdiff = DeleteCases[First @ setarray,
            Apply[Alternatives, Union @@ Rest[setarray]]
    sdiffsorted = Union @ sdiff;
            opts, Automatic,
                sdiff, "SortAndDistinct",

   l1 = {b, e, d, a, b, c, d}; l2 = {b, c}; l3 = {a, f};

   SetDifference[l1, l2, l3]

   (*{e, d, d}*)

   SetDifference[l1, l2, l3, "SortAndDistinct"]

   (*{d, e}*)

   SetDifference[{a, b, b, d, e}, {c}, {c, e}, {d}]

   (*{a, b, b}*)

   SetDifference[{a, b, b, d, e}, {c}, {c, e}, {d}, "SortAndDistinct"]

   (*{a, b}*)

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