Read clojure map values 1/2

Continuing the series about clojure map we are now going to explore more deeply how to read a map.

For those who missed the previous chapters:

In the next 2 chapters we are going to explore more deeply functions such as: get, get-in, contains?, find, keys, vals and select-keys.

Let’s start with the easiest one,


As you already know from the first part of the series, get takes a map and a key as inputs and returns the value associated with that key in the map.

If the key is not present get returns nil.

user> (get {:a 1 :b 2} :a)
user> (get {:a 1 :b 2} :c)

get is a little more powerfull than this, if you provide a third argument in case of a missing key get will return such argument.

user> (get {:a 1 :b 2} :c :value-not-found)
user> (get {:a 1 :b 2} :c "of course it can be everything")
"of course it can be everything"

Also :keywords, that can be used as functions passing the map as argument, have this nice feature of the third argument.

user> (:a {:a 1 :b 2})
user> (:d {:a 1 :b 2} :key-not-found)

Now that we understand get let’s move to its big brother,


As you know maps can contain anything as value, even other maps.

It is easy to see that you can create arbitrarialy nested maps.

user> (def nested-map {:a {:b {:c {:d "foo"} :e {:f {:g "bar"}}}}})
user> nested-map
{:a {:b {:e {:f {:g "bar"}}, :c {:d "foo"}}}}

How do you access “foo” and “bar” ?

A possible, acceptable, solution would be to use the -> macro.

user> (-> nested-map :a :b :e :f :g)
user> (-> nested-map :a :b :c :d)

However this is exactly the job of get-in, let’s see it in action:

user> (get-in nested-map [:a :b :e :f :g])
user> (get-in nested-map [:a :b :c :d])
user> (get-in nested-map [:a :b :wrong :d])
user> (get-in nested-map [:a :b :wrong :d] :not-found)

Using the get-in function you will also get the possibility to specify the key-not-found return value.


The name is self explanatory, it will tell you if a particular key is in the map or not, it won’t return the value.

Bonus Fact: A little note about the name conventions in clojure: a function whose name terminates with ? is supposed to return either true or false.

user> (contains? {:a 1 "b" 2} :a)
user> (contains? {:a 1 "b" 2} :c)
user> (contains? {:a 1 "b" 2} "b")


Finally let’s talk briefly about find, as you may have guessed find will lookup a map entry in your map and return it.

A map entry is a pair [:key "value"].

user> (find {:a 1 "b" 2} "b")
["b" 2]
user> (find {:a 1 "b" 2} :c)


Next time we are going to explore three more functions, keys, vals and select-key.

In a couple of chapters we will discuss why map entries are important.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to just say hi you can comment here or write me an email.

Here you can find the next chapter: Read Clojure Map 2/2: keys, vals, select-keys

I am available for freelance work, I am specialized in IoT and distributed fault tolerant systems, if you are interested in working with me you can get in touch here: simone [at] mweb [dot] biz