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data structure

n. (context computer science English) Any way of storing and organizing data in a computer so that it can be used efficiently.

data structure

n. (computer science) the organization of data (and its storage allocations in a computer)

Data structure

In computer science, a data structure is a particular way of organizing data in a computer so that it can be used efficiently. Data structures can implement one or more particular abstract data types (ADT), which specify the operations that can be performed on a data structure and the computional complexity of those operations. In comparison, a data structure is a concrete implementation of the specification provided by an ADT.

Different kinds of data structures are suited to different kinds of applications, and some are highly specialized to specific tasks. For example, relational databases commonly use B-tree indexes for data retrieval, while compiler implementations usually use hash tables to look up identifiers.

Data structures provide a means to manage large amounts of data efficiently for uses such as large databases and internet indexing services. Usually, efficient data structures are key to designing efficient algorithms. Some formal design methods and programming languages emphasize data structures, rather than algorithms, as the key organizing factor in software design. Data structures can be used to organize the storage and retrieval of information stored in both main memory and in secondary memory.