Does C Have Map Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

When it comes to data structures in programming languages, the map is a commonly used data structure that allows for efficient key-value pair storage and retrieval. It provides a way to associate values with unique keys, making it easier to access and manipulate data.

But does the C programming language have a built-in map data structure? Let’s find out.

Map Data Structure in C

C is a powerful programming language that provides a rich set of features for low-level system programming. However, unlike some other languages like C++, Java, or Python, C does not have a built-in map data structure in its standard library.

So, if you need to use a map-like functionality in your C programs, you will need to implement your own map data structure or make use of third-party libraries that provide map implementations.

Implementing Map in C

To implement a map-like functionality in C, you can make use of arrays or linked lists along with key-value pairs. Here’s an example of how you can create a simple map using an array:

#include <stdio.h>

typedef struct {
    int key;
    int value;
} KeyValuePair;

int main() {
    KeyValuePair map[10];

    // Inserting values into the map
    map[0].key = 1;
    map[0].value = 100;

    // Retrieving values from the map
    printf("Value at key 1: %d\n", map[0].value);

    return 0;

In this example, we define a KeyValuePair structure that holds both the key and value. We then create an array of KeyValuePair, which acts as our map.

We can insert values into the map by assigning values to the respective key-value pairs. Similarly, we can retrieve values from the map by accessing the value corresponding to a particular key.

Using Third-Party Libraries

If you prefer not to implement your own map data structure, there are several third-party libraries available for C that provide map-like functionality. Some popular libraries include:

  • GLib: GLib is a general-purpose utility library that includes data structures like hash tables and arrays, which can be used as maps.
  • klib: klib is a minimalist library with a small memory footprint that provides hash tables and other data structures.
  • Judy: Judy is a dynamic array library that can be used as a map or associative array.

Using these libraries can save you time and effort in implementing your own map data structure and provide additional functionality and optimizations.


In summary, while the C programming language does not have a built-in map data structure in its standard library, it is possible to implement your own map using arrays or linked lists. Alternatively, you can make use of third-party libraries like GLib, klib, or Judy that provide ready-to-use map implementations. By leveraging these options, you can efficiently store and retrieve key-value pairs in your C programs.

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