I am trying to compute the difference in timestamps and make a delta time column in a Pandas dataframe. This is the code I am currently using:

# Make x sequential in time

# Initialize a list to store the delta values
time_delta = [pd._libs.tslib.Timedelta('NaT')]

# Loop though the table and compute deltas
for i in range(1,len(x)):
    time_delta.append(x.loc[i,'timestamp'] - x.loc[i-1,'timestamp'])

# Compute a Pandas Series from the list 
time_delta = pd.Series(time_delta)

# Attach the Series back to the original df
x['time_delta'] = time_delta

It seems like there should be a more efficient / vectorized way of doing this simple operation, but I can't seem to figure it out.

Suggestions on improving this code would be greatly appreciated.


2 Answers 2


Probably you miss:

Example code

from datetime import datetime, timedelta
import pandas as pd
from random import randint

if __name__ == "__main__":
    # Prepare table x with unsorted timestamp column
    date_today = datetime.now()
    timestamps = [date_today + timedelta(seconds=randint(1, 1000)) for _ in range(5)]
    x = pd.DataFrame(data={'timestamp': timestamps})

    # Make x sequential in time
    x.sort_values('timestamp', ascending=True, inplace=True)
    # Compute time_detla
    x['time_delta'] = x['timestamp'] - x['timestamp'].shift()

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Using x.time_delta.diff() (possibly with -1 as argument) might be even simpler. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graipher
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, x['time_delta'] = x.timestamp.diff() is simpler. \$\endgroup\$
    – vaeta
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 22:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Feel free to include it in your answer if you want. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graipher
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 23:52

Use the diff().

    x['time_delta'] = x.timestamp.diff().fillna(x['time_delta'])

This works as below, in a simpler example.

You could use the diff() Series method (with fillna to replace the first value in the series):

s = pd.Series([11, 13, 56, 60, 65])
0    11
1     2
2    43
3     4
4     5
dtype: float64

This was compiled from the comments below the current best answer (which I failed to see and kept searching), and the stack overflow link that explained it with fillna so I am hoping this can be lifted up to the top for future seekers. Happy data processing!

  • \$\begingroup\$ An alternative to fillna(), is to drop the first element altogether. s = pd.Series([11, 13, 56, 60, 65]) s.diff()[1:] 1 2.0 2 43.0 3 4.0 4 5.0 dtype: float64 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 20:40

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