What Data Type Is a Linked List?


Scott Campbell

When it comes to data structures in programming, the linked list is a commonly used and versatile data type. It is a dynamic data structure that consists of nodes, where each node contains a value and a reference to the next node in the list.

Understanding Linked Lists

A linked list is often compared to an array, but it differs in terms of how elements are stored and accessed. While an array stores its elements in contiguous memory locations, a linked list uses nodes that are scattered across memory. Each node holds a value and a pointer/reference to the next node, forming a chain-like structure.

The first node in the linked list is called the head, and the last node points to null (indicating the end of the list). The advantage of this structure is that it allows for efficient insertion and deletion operations at any position.

The Data Type of Linked Lists

Now let’s discuss what data type a linked list is. In most programming languages, including C++, Java, and Python, a linked list is not considered as a built-in data type like integers or floats. Instead, it can be implemented using classes or structs (in C++).

In Java, for example, you would typically define a LinkedList class that contains methods to manipulate the linked list. Each instance of this class represents an actual linked list object.

Example: Implementing Linked List in Java

<pre><code>public class LinkedList {
    private Node head;
    private class Node {
        int value;
        Node next;
        Node(int val) {
            value = val;
            next = null;
    // Rest of the methods..

In this Java example, the LinkedList class is defined with a private inner class called Node. Each Node object has an integer value and a reference to the next Node.

Benefits of Using Linked Lists

Linked lists offer several advantages in certain situations:

  • Dynamic Size: Unlike arrays, linked lists can easily grow or shrink as needed without requiring reallocation of memory.
  • Efficient Insertion and Deletion: Inserting or deleting an element in a linked list can be done with constant time complexity (O(1)) if we have access to the node where the operation needs to be performed.
  • No Wasted Memory: Linked lists only use memory proportional to the number of elements, whereas arrays may allocate more memory than needed.


A linked list is a powerful data structure that can be implemented through classes or structs in various programming languages. It offers dynamic size, efficient insertion/deletion, and no wasted memory. Understanding the data type of linked lists is essential for utilizing them effectively in your programs.

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    I hope this article has shed some light on what data type a linked list is and how it can be implemented. Happy coding!

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