# Renaming levels of a factor

## Problem

You want to rename the levels in a factor.

## Solution

```
# A sample factor to work with.
x <- factor(c("alpha","beta","gamma","alpha","beta"))
x
#> [1] alpha beta gamma alpha beta
#> Levels: alpha beta gamma
levels(x)
#> [1] "alpha" "beta" "gamma"
```

The easiest way is to use `revalue()`

or `mapvalues()`

from the plyr package:

```
library(plyr)
revalue(x, c("beta"="two", "gamma"="three"))
#> [1] alpha two three alpha two
#> Levels: alpha two three
mapvalues(x, from = c("beta", "gamma"), to = c("two", "three"))
#> [1] alpha two three alpha two
#> Levels: alpha two three
```

If you don’t want to rely on plyr, you can do the following with R’s built-in functions.
Note that these methods will modify `x`

directly; that is, you don’t have to save the result back into `x`

.

```
# Rename by name: change "beta" to "two"
levels(x)[levels(x)=="beta"] <- "two"
# You can also rename by position, but this is a bit dangerous if your data
# can change in the future. If there is a change in the number or positions of
# factor levels, then this can result in wrong data.
# Rename by index in levels list: change third item, "gamma", to "three".
levels(x)[3] <- "three"
x
#> [1] alpha two three alpha two
#> Levels: alpha two three
# Rename all levels
levels(x) <- c("one","two","three")
x
#> [1] one two three one two
#> Levels: one two three
```

It’s possible to rename factor levels by name (without plyr), but keep in mind that this works only if ALL levels are present in the list; if any are not in the list, they will be replaced with `NA`

.

```
# Rename all levels, by name
x <- factor(c("alpha","beta","gamma","alpha","beta"))
levels(x) <- list(A="alpha", B="beta", C="gamma")
x
#> [1] A B C A B
#> Levels: A B C
```

It’s also possible to use R’s string search-and-replace functions to rename factor levels. Note that the `^`

and `$`

surrounding `alpha`

are there to ensure that the entire string matches. Without them, if there were a level named `alphabet`

, it would also match, and the replacement would be `onebet`

.

```
# A sample factor to work with.
x <- factor(c("alpha","beta","gamma","alpha","beta"))
x
#> [1] alpha beta gamma alpha beta
#> Levels: alpha beta gamma
levels(x) <- sub("^alpha$", "one", levels(x))
x
#> [1] one beta gamma one beta
#> Levels: one beta gamma
# Across all columns, replace all instances of "a" with "X"
levels(x) <- gsub("a", "X", levels(x))
x
#> [1] one betX gXmmX one betX
#> Levels: one betX gXmmX
# gsub() replaces all instances of the pattern in each factor level.
# sub() replaces only the first instance in each factor level.
```

## See also

Mapping values in a vector to new values works much the same. See ../Mapping vector values for more information.