What Is a Bucket in Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

What Is a Bucket in Data Structure?

A bucket is a fundamental concept in data structure that is used to organize and store data efficiently. It is commonly used in hash tables and hash-based data structures to handle collisions. Understanding the concept of a bucket is crucial for designing and implementing efficient data structures.

The Purpose of Buckets

In the context of data structures, a bucket refers to a container or slot that can hold one or more elements or values. The main purpose of using buckets is to group similar items together, allowing for faster access and retrieval of data.

In hash tables, for example, a bucket serves as an index or address within an array where elements with the same hash value are stored. When there is a collision (i.e., multiple elements mapping to the same bucket), additional mechanisms such as linked lists or trees are used to handle these collisions effectively.

Implementing Buckets

In most programming languages, buckets are implemented as arrays, where each cell in the array represents a single bucket. Alternatively, buckets can also be implemented using dynamic data structures like linked lists or trees.

When implementing buckets using arrays, it is common to calculate the index of the bucket using a hash function. The hash function takes an element as input and produces an integer value that corresponds to the index of the bucket where the element will be stored.

Buckets in Hash Tables

Hash tables are one of the most popular applications of buckets in data structures. In a hash table, buckets are used to store key-value pairs. Each key is hashed using a hash function, which determines its corresponding bucket.

  • Hashing: The process of converting a key into an integer value that represents the index of the corresponding bucket.
  • Collision: A situation where two or more keys produce the same hash value, causing them to map to the same bucket.
  • Collision Resolution: Techniques used to handle collisions, such as chaining (using linked lists) or open addressing (probing nearby buckets).

Buckets in Other Data Structures

Besides hash tables, buckets are also used in various other data structures:

  • Bucket Sort: A sorting algorithm that divides elements into different buckets based on their values and then sorts each bucket individually before merging them.
  • Bloom Filters: A probabilistic data structure that uses multiple hash functions and a bit array as buckets to represent a set of elements.
  • Histograms: Used for visualizing data distribution, histograms group data into discrete intervals or bins represented by buckets.


In summary, a bucket is a fundamental concept in data structures that serves as a container for organizing and storing similar elements together. It plays a crucial role in hash-based data structures like hash tables by handling collisions efficiently. Understanding how buckets work and their applications in various data structures is essential for building efficient and scalable software systems.

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