csv python

_csv.Error: field larger than field limit (131072)


I have a script reading in a csv file with very huge fields:

# example from
import csv
with open('some.csv', newline="") as f:
    reader = csv.reader(f)
    for row in reader:

However, this throws the following error on some csv files:

_csv.Error: field larger than field limit (131072)

How can I analyze csv files with huge fields? Skipping the lines with huge fields is not an option as the data needs to be analyzed in subsequent steps.


  • 17

    Even better would be to consider why there are such big fields Is that expected in your data? Sometimes errors like these are indicative of a different problem. I had some Bad Data in mine that included a random double quote character and thus had to use the QUOTE_NONE option shown in another answer here.

    Apr 21, 2016 at 16:35

  • 3

    I updated my question to indicate that in my case huge fields might occur. There is no bad data in the csv file.

    Apr 21, 2016 at 18:53

  • 2

    @dustmachine Such things happen because sometimes you find people storing images (or other binary files) in base64 format in database tables.

    Sep 23, 2016 at 19:17


The csv file might contain very huge fields, therefore increase the field_size_limit:

import sys
import csv


sys.maxsize works for Python 2.x and 3.x. sys.maxint would only work with Python 2.x (SO: what-is-sys-maxint-in-python-3)


As Geoff pointed out, the code above might result in the following error: OverflowError: Python int too large to convert to C long.
To circumvent this, you could use the following quick and dirty code (which should work on every system with Python 2 and Python 3):

import sys
import csv
maxInt = sys.maxsize

while True:
    # decrease the maxInt value by factor 10 
    # as long as the OverflowError occurs.

    except OverflowError:
        maxInt = int(maxInt/10)


  • 17

    On Windows 7 64bit with Python 2.6, maxInt = sys.maxsize returns 9223372036854775807L which consequently results in a TypeError: limit must be an integer when calling csv.field_size_limit(maxInt). Interestingly, using maxInt = int(sys.maxsize) does not change this. A crude workaround is to simlpy use csv.field_size_limit(2147483647) which of course cause issues on other platforms. In my case this was adquat to identify the broken value in the CSV, fix the export options in the other application and remove the need for csv.field_size_limit().

    – roskakori

    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:02


This could be because your CSV file has embedded single or double quotes. If your CSV file is tab-delimited try opening it as:

c = csv.reader(f, delimiter="\t", quoting=csv.QUOTE_NONE)


  • 1

    Thank you!! If you are using csvkit (an excellent python library and command-line csv toolkit) and get the original error because your file uses unbalanced single or double quotes, you can select QUOTE_NONE via the -u 3 command line option, aka --quoting 3

    – nealmcb

    Jan 25, 2015 at 14:26

  • I had the error field larger than field limit because of a single double-quote in a bad formatted CSV file.

    May 17 at 11:15



.csv field sizes are controlled via [Python.Docs]: csv.field_size_limit([new_limit]) (emphasis is mine):

Returns the current maximum field size allowed by the parser. If new_limit is given, this becomes the new limit.

It is set by default to 131072 or 0x20000 (128k), which should be enough for any decent .csv:

>>> import csv
>>> limit0 = csv.field_size_limit()
>>> limit0
>>> "0x{0:016X}".format(limit0)

However, when dealing with a .csv file (with the correct quoting and delimiter) having (at least) one field longer than this size, the error pops up.
To get rid of the error, the size limit should be increased (to avoid any worries, the maximum possible value is attempted).

Behind the scenes (check [GitHub]: python/cpython – (master) cpython/Modules/_csv.c for implementation details), the variable that holds this value is a C long ([Wikipedia]: C data types), whose size varies depending on CPU architecture and OS (ILP). The classical difference: for a 064bit OS (and Python build), the long type size (in bits) is:

  • Nix: 64
  • Win: 32

When attempting to set it, the new value is checked to be in the long boundaries, that’s why in some cases another exception pops up (because sys.maxsize is typically 064bit wide – encountered on Win):

>>> import sys, ctypes as ct
>>> "v{:d}.{:d}.{:d}".format(*sys.version_info[:3]), sys.platform, sys.maxsize, ct.sizeof(ct.c_void_p) * 8, ct.sizeof(ct.c_long) * 8
('v3.9.9', 'win32', 9223372036854775807, 64, 32)
>>> csv.field_size_limit(sys.maxsize)
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
OverflowError: Python int too large to convert to C long

To avoid running into this problem, set the (maximum possible) limit (LONG_MAX), using an artifice (thanks to [Python.Docs]: ctypes – A foreign function library for Python). It should work on Python 3 and Python 2, on any CPU / OS.

>>> csv.field_size_limit(int(ct.c_ulong(-1).value // 2))
>>> limit1 = csv.field_size_limit()
>>> limit1
>>> "0x{0:016X}".format(limit1)

064bit Python on a Nix like OS:

>>> import sys, csv, ctypes as ct
>>> "v{:d}.{:d}.{:d}".format(*sys.version_info[:3]), sys.platform, sys.maxsize, ct.sizeof(ct.c_void_p) * 8, ct.sizeof(ct.c_long) * 8
('v3.8.10', 'linux', 9223372036854775807, 64, 64)
>>> csv.field_size_limit()
>>> csv.field_size_limit(int(ct.c_ulong(-1).value // 2))
>>> limit1 = csv.field_size_limit()
>>> limit1
>>> "0x{0:016X}".format(limit1)

For 032bit Python, things should run smoothly without the artifice (as both sys.maxsize and LONG_MAX are 032bit wide).
If this maximum value is still not enough, then the .csv would need manual intervention in order to be processed from Python.

Check the following resources for more details on: