What Do You Mean by Data Type in C?


Angela Bailey

In the C programming language, a data type is a classification that determines the type of data that a variable can store. It defines the operations that can be performed on the data and the way it is stored in memory. C provides several built-in data types, each with its own characteristics and usage.

Primary Data Types:

C has four primary or basic data types:

  • int: Used to store whole numbers (integer values) such as -1, 0, 1, etc.
  • float: Used to store floating-point numbers with decimal places like 3.14, -0.5, etc.
  • char: Used to store individual characters like ‘a’, ‘B’, ‘#’, etc.
  • void: Represents the absence of type or an empty value.

Derived Data Types:

C also provides derived or composite data types that are derived from primary data types. These include:


An array is a collection of elements of the same data type. It allows you to store multiple values under a single variable name in contiguous memory locations. Arrays are declared using square brackets [] and their size must be specified at compile-time.


A structure is a user-defined composite data type that allows you to combine different types of variables under a single name. Each variable within a structure is called a member and can have its own data type.


A pointer is a variable that stores the memory address of another variable. It allows you to indirectly access and manipulate the data stored in memory. Pointers are often used for dynamic memory allocation, passing arguments to functions by reference, and working with arrays.


An enumeration is a user-defined data type that consists of a set of named constants. It provides a way to define a group of related values that can be assigned to variables. Enumerations are useful when you have a finite set of possible values for a variable.

User-defined Data Types:

In addition to the built-in data types, C allows you to define your own data types using structures, unions, and typedef.


A union is similar to a structure but it allows different variables to share the same memory space. Only one member of a union can have a value at any given time. Unions are useful when you want to store different types of data in the same memory location.


The typedef keyword is used to create an alias or new name for an existing data type. It allows you to define shorter, more meaningful names for complex or user-defined types. Typedef can improve code readability and maintainability.


Understanding data types in C is essential for writing efficient and error-free programs. By selecting the appropriate data type for your variables, you can ensure proper memory allocation and efficient execution of operations on that data.

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