Recall, in Python, namespaces are the backbone of how our programs are stored and retrieved. However, knowing about namespace mechanism isn’t enough to explain the following behavior:

def printColor(): color = 'red' print(color)

If we run this code, our output would give us:

NameError: name 'color' is not defined

Well, that’s puzzling. We can see that there clearly exists a name called color, and we know anytime we define a variable it gets added to a namespace, yet we can’t seem to access it! What gives?

Well, this is where a concept called scope comes into play. Scope defines which namespaces our program will look into (to check names) and in what order. While multiple namespaces usually exist at once, this does not mean we can access all of them in different parts of our program! Exploring the concept of scope will allow us to start recognizing when and where certain objects may or may not be accessed.

Similar to namespaces, there are four different levels of scope. These levels are:

  1. Built-in Scope (We will skip talking about this scope)
  2. Global Scope
  3. Enclosing Scope
  4. Local Scope

Those four scope names should look very familiar since those are also the four namespaces we talked about! Each of these scopes has a different level of access to the namespaces our programs generate. In the next few exercises, we will examine each of these scopes.

Note: As we explore the ideas around scope, there may be some confusion between what distinguishes the concept of scope and namespaces. While both concepts are interlinked and work together, namespaces are simply the mechanism for storing name-object pairs, while scope will serve as a rule system on where (which point in our code) we can retrieve those names.


Take some time to review the structure of the scope in Python. Note any similarities you notice compared to the namespace structure that was covered in the previous lesson.

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