This page describes how Python is handled in Homebrew for users. See Python for Formula Authors for advice on writing formulae to install packages written in Python.

Homebrew will install the necessary Python 3 version that is needed to make your packages work. Python 2 (or 1) is not supported.

Python 3

Homebrew provides formulae for the newest and maintained releases of Python 3 (python@3.y) ( We keep older python@3.y versions according to our versioned formulae guidelines.

Important: Python may be upgraded to a newer version at any time. Consider using a version manager such as pyenv if you require stability of minor or patch versions for virtual environments.

The executables are organised as follows:

Unversioned symlinks for python, python-config, pip etc. are installed here:

$(brew --prefix python)/libexec/bin

Warning! The executables do not always point to the latest Python 3 version, as there is always a delay between the newest Python 3 release and the homebrew-core repository switching to the newest version.

Setuptools, pip, etc.

The Python formulae install pip (as pip3). Python@3.11 and older Python formulae also install Setuptools.

Starting with Python@3.12, the bundled Python packages should be updated by reinstalling brewed Python. For older Python formulae, they can be updated as described below.

Setuptools can be updated via pip, without having to reinstall brewed Python:

python3 -m pip install --upgrade setuptools

Similarly, pip can be used to upgrade itself via:

python3 -m pip install --upgrade pip

site-packages and the PYTHONPATH

The site-packages is a directory that contains Python modules, including bindings installed by other formulae. Homebrew creates it here:

$(brew --prefix)/lib/pythonX.Y/site-packages

So, for Python 3.y.z, you’ll find it at /usr/local/lib/python3.y/site-packages on macOS Intel.

Python 3.y also searches for modules in:

Homebrew’s site-packages directory is first created (1) once any Homebrew formulae with Python bindings are installed, or (2) upon brew install python.

Why here?

The reasoning for this location is to preserve your modules between (minor) upgrades or re-installations of Python. Additionally, Homebrew has a strict policy never to write stuff outside of the brew --prefix, so we don’t spam your system.

Homebrew-provided Python bindings

Some formulae provide Python bindings.

Policy for non-brewed Python bindings

These should be installed via pip install <package>. To discover, you can use

Starting with Python 3.12, we highly recommend you to use a separate virtualenv for this (see the section about PEP 668 below).

Brewed Python modules

For brewed Python, modules installed with pip or python3 install will be installed to the $(brew --prefix)/lib/pythonX.Y/site-packages directory (explained above). Executable Python scripts will be in $(brew --prefix)/bin.

Since the system Python may not know which compiler flags to set when building bindings for software installed by Homebrew, you may need to run:

CFLAGS="-I$(brew --prefix)/include" LDFLAGS="-L$(brew --prefix)/lib" pip install <package>

PEP 668 (Python@3.12) and virtual environments

Starting with Python@3.12, Homebrew follows PEP 668.

If you wish to install a non-brew-packaged Python package (from PyPI for example):

It is possible to install some Python packages as formulae by using brew install xyz. We do not recommend using these formulae and instead recommend you install them with pip inside a virtualenv. These system-wide Homebrew Python formulae are often Homebrew-specific formulae that are useful as dependencies for other Homebrew formulae. It is not recommended to rely on them.

Why is Homebrew’s Python being installed as a dependency?

Formulae that declare an unconditional dependency on the python formula are bottled against Homebrew’s Python 3.y and require it to be installed.

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