What Data Structure Is Java List?


Heather Bennett

What Data Structure Is Java List?

Java provides a built-in data structure called List that is commonly used to store and manipulate collections of elements. It is part of the Java Collections Framework, which offers a set of interfaces and classes for handling different types of collections efficiently.

List Interface

The List interface in Java represents an ordered collection of elements, meaning that the elements are stored in a specific sequence and can be accessed by their index. It extends the Collection interface and adds operations to insert, remove, and access elements based on their position.

The key features of the List interface include:

  • Ordered: The elements in a list are stored in a specific order, which allows for predictable iteration and retrieval based on index.
  • Duplicates: A list can contain duplicate elements, meaning that multiple elements with the same value can be present.
  • Maintains Insertion Order: When new elements are added to a list, they are placed at the end of the existing sequence.

Common Implementations

In Java, there are several classes that implement the List interface. Some of the commonly used implementations include:


The ArrayList class provides an implementation of a resizable array. It internally uses an array to store the elements and automatically increases its size as needed. This makes it efficient for accessing elements by index but not ideal for frequent insertions or removals at arbitrary positions.


The LinkedList class implements a doubly-linked list. It is efficient for frequent insertions or removals at arbitrary positions but less efficient for random access by index.


The Vector class is similar to the ArrayList class, but it is synchronized, meaning that it is thread-safe. This makes it suitable for use in multi-threaded environments at the expense of some performance.

Example Usage

Here’s an example that demonstrates how to use the List interface with the ArrayList implementation:

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.List;

public class ListExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        List fruits = new ArrayList<>();
        // Adding elements
        // Accessing elements
        System.out.println("First fruit: " + fruits.get(0));
        // Iterating over elements
        for (String fruit : fruits) {

In this example, we create an ArrayList, add three fruits, access the first fruit using the .get() method, and then iterate over all the fruits using a for-each loop.


The Java List interface provides a powerful and flexible way to work with collections of elements. Whether you need an ordered collection with fast random access or a dynamic collection with efficient insertions and removals, there is an implementation available to suit your specific needs.

By understanding the characteristics and differences between the various implementations, you can choose the most appropriate one for your application.

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