What Data Structure Uses Last In, First Out?


Larry Thompson

What Data Structure Uses Last In, First Out?

When it comes to storing and organizing data, different data structures are used depending on the requirements of a particular problem. One common type of data structure is a stack. A stack is a linear data structure that follows the Last In, First Out (LIFO) principle, meaning that the last element inserted into the stack will be the first one to be removed.

The Stack Data Structure

A stack can be visualized as a vertical collection of elements, where each new element is placed on top of the previous one. The topmost element is accessible and removable, while the elements below it are not directly accessible until the topmost element is removed.

Key Operations:

  • Push: Adds an element to the top of the stack.
  • Pop: Removes and returns the topmost element from the stack.
  • Peek: Returns the value of the topmost element without removing it.
  • isEmpty: Checks if the stack is empty or not.

Analogies for Understanding LIFO Concept

To better understand LIFO in practice, let’s consider some real-world analogies:

Stack of Plates

Imagine you have a stack of plates on a table. When you add a new plate to this stack, you place it on top.

Similarly, when you need to remove a plate from this stack, you always start with the plate at the top. This way, you always deal with (remove) the most recently added plate first.

Call Stack in Programming

In programming, a call stack is a great example of LIFO behavior. When a function is called, its execution context, including local variables and parameters, is added to the top of the call stack. When the function finishes executing, its context is removed from the top of the stack, and the program continues from where it left off.

Common Applications of Stacks

The LIFO property of stacks makes them suitable for several applications:

  • Function call management in programming languages.
  • Expression evaluation and syntax parsing.
  • Undo/Redo functionality in text editors.
  • Backtracking algorithms like Depth-First Search (DFS).


Although stacks are simple and efficient data structures, they have limitations. Stacks have a fixed size and can overflow if more elements are pushed onto them than their capacity allows. Additionally, accessing elements in the middle of a stack is not efficient since it requires popping all the elements above it.

In Conclusion

A stack is a data structure that follows the Last In, First Out (LIFO) principle. It allows efficient addition and removal of elements from one end only – the top. Understanding how stacks work and their applications can greatly help in problem-solving and algorithm design.

To summarize:

  • A stack uses LIFO – Last In, First Out – ordering.
  • The key operations on a stack are push, pop, peek, and isEmpty.
  • Analogies like a stack of plates or call stacks help visualize LIFO behavior.
  • Stacks are used in various applications like function calls, expression evaluation, and backtracking algorithms.

With this knowledge of stacks and LIFO, you can better understand and utilize this data structure for solving problems efficiently.

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