Relative import happens whenever you are importing a package relative to the current script/package.

Consider the following tree for example:

mypkg
├── base.py
└── derived.py

Now, your derived.py requires something from base.py. In Python 2, you could do it like this (in derived.py):

from base import BaseThing

Python 3 no longer supports that since it’s not explicit whether you want the ‘relative’ or ‘absolute’ base. In other words, if there was a Python package named base installed in the system, you’d get the wrong one.

Instead it requires you to use explicit imports which explicitly specify location of a module on a path-alike basis. Your derived.py would look like:

from .base import BaseThing

The leading . says ‘import base from module directory’; in other words, .base maps to ./base.py.

Similarly, there is .. prefix which goes up the directory hierarchy like ../ (with ..mod mapping to ../mod.py), and then ... which goes two levels up (../../mod.py) and so on.

Please however note that the relative paths listed above were relative to directory where current module (derived.py) resides in, not the current working directory.


Explanation about the star import case

For example, you need to use a few math functions but you use them only in a single function. In Python 2 you were permitted to be semi-lazy:

def sin_degrees(x):
    from math import *
    return sin(degrees(x))

Note that it already triggers a warning in Python 2:

a.py:1: SyntaxWarning: import * only allowed at module level
  def sin_degrees(x):

In modern Python 2 code you should and in Python 3 you have to do either:

def sin_degrees(x):
    from math import sin, degrees
    return sin(degrees(x))

or:

from math import *

def sin_degrees(x):
    return sin(degrees(x))
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