Is Bag a Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

Is Bag a Data Structure?

A bag is a data structure that allows you to store and retrieve items without any particular order. It is also known as a multiset or a collection. Unlike other data structures like arrays or lists, bags do not enforce any specific organization or sorting of the items they contain.

Characteristics of a Bag

A bag has the following characteristics:

  • Unordered: Items in a bag have no predefined order. They can be added and removed in any sequence.
  • Duplicates allowed: A bag can contain multiple occurrences of the same item.
  • No indexing: Unlike arrays or lists, you cannot access items in a bag using an index value.

Operations on Bags

Bags support the following fundamental operations:

  • Add: Add an item to the bag.
  • Remove: Remove an item from the bag.
  • Contains: Check if an item is present in the bag.
  • Count: Get the total count of items in the bag, including duplicates.

Bags are useful when you need to keep track of multiple instances of objects without caring about their order. They are commonly used in scenarios such as counting occurrences of words in a text document, tracking inventory quantities, or representing combinations of elements in combinatorial algorithms.

Bags vs Sets

Bags are similar to sets but with one key difference – bags allow duplicates while sets do not. In a set, each item is unique, and adding a duplicate item has no effect. Bags, on the other hand, keep track of the count of each item, including duplicates.

Implementing Bags

In programming languages, bags can be implemented using various data structures such as arrays, linked lists, or hash tables. The choice of implementation depends on factors like performance requirements and the specific use case.


A bag is a versatile data structure that allows you to store items without any particular order and with the ability to have duplicates. It provides essential operations like add, remove, contains, and count. Bags are valuable in scenarios where maintaining order is not necessary or when tracking occurrences of items is required.

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