When reading HTML, named entities are often neater and easier to comprehend than numeric entities, Unicode (or other charset) characters, or a mixture of all of the above. Because they fall within the ASCII range, entities are also much safer to use in multiple contexts than Unicode and its various encodings (UTF-8 and such).

This module helps convert from numerical HTML entities and Unicode characters that fall outside the normal ASCII range into named entities. Or, if you prefer, it will help you go the other way, mapping all entities into Unicode. And if you decide you want entities of the counting type, it will even help you go numeric. Decimal or hexadecimal.


Python 2:

from namedentities import *

u = u'both em\u2014and–dashes…'

print "named:  ", repr(named_entities(u))
print "numeric:", repr(numeric_entities(u))
print "hex:"   ", repr(hex_entities(u))
print "unicode:", repr(unicode_entities(u))


named:   'both em—and–dashes…'
numeric: 'both em—and–dashes…'
hex:     'both em—and–dashes…'
unicode: u'both em\u2014and\u2013dashes\u2026'

You can do just about the same thing in Python 3, but you have to use a print function rather than a print statement, and prior to 3.3, you have to skip the u prefix that in Python 2 marks string literals as being Unicode literals. In Python 3.3 and following, however, you can start using the u marker again, if you like. It's an optional feature that doesn't do anything terribly specific, because all Python 3 strings are Unicode--but it sure helps with cross-version code compatibility. (You can use the six cross-version compatibility library, as the tests do.)

One good use for unicode_entities is to create cross-platform, cross-Python-version strings that conceptually contain Unicode characters, but spelled out as named (or numeric) HTML entities. This has the advantage of using only ASCII characters and common string encoding mechanisms, yet rendering full Unicode strings upon reconstitution. You can use the other functions, say named_entities(), to go from Unicode characters to named entities.

Recent Changes

  • The numeric_entities(text) and hex_entities(text) APIs have been added, shifting the module's mission from "named entities" to "general purpose entity transformation." Live and learn!
  • The unescape(text) API changes all entities into Unicode characters. While long present, is now available for easy external consumption. It has an alias, unicode_entities(text) for parallelism with the other APIs.
  • Repackaged first as a Python package, rather than independent modules. Then, given my growing confidence in managing cross-version packages, previously separate backend implementations for Python 2 and Python 3 have been merged into a single backend.
  • Now successfully packaged for, and tests against, against Python 2.6, 2.7, and 3.3, as well as PyPy 2.0.2 (based on 2.7.3). Automated multi-version testing managed with the wonderful pytest and tox.
  • Should also work under Python 2.5 and 3.2 releases, and PyPy 1.9, but those have been removed from "official support" because they are no longer supported in my testing environment. Time to upgrade!


  • Doesn't attempt to encode <, >, or & (or their numerical equivalents) to avoid interfering with HTML escaping.
  • This module started as basically a packaging of Ian Beck's work. While it's moved slighly forward since then, it's still mostly Ian under the covers. Thank you, Ian!


pip install -U namedentities

To easy_install under a specific Python version (3.3 in this example):

python3.3 -m easy_install --upgrade namedentities

(You may need to prefix these with "sudo " to authorize installation.)