What Is a Heapify in Data Structure?


Heather Bennett

A heapify is a crucial operation in data structure, specifically in the context of heaps. Heaps are a type of binary tree-based data structure that satisfy the heap property. The heap property ensures that the parent node has a specific relationship with its child nodes, making it efficient for certain operations.

What is a Heap?

Before we dive into heapify, let’s quickly understand what a heap is. A heap is a complete binary tree where each node has a value that is greater than or equal to (in a max-heap) or less than or equal to (in a min-heap) its child nodes. In simpler terms, elements in a max-heap are arranged in descending order, with the largest element at the root, while elements in a min-heap are arranged in ascending order, with the smallest element at the root.

What is Heapify?

Heapify refers to the process of rearranging the elements of an array, transforming it into a valid heap. It ensures that every subtree rooted at any given node follows the heap property. This operation is essential when we need to build or maintain a heap efficiently.

Heapify can be performed in two ways:

  • Top-down approach: Starting from the root node, we compare it with its children and swap if necessary to maintain the heap property. We then recursively apply this process to each subtree until all nodes satisfy the heap property.
  • Bottom-up approach: In this approach, we start from the last non-leaf node and move upwards towards the root. At each step, we ensure that both subtrees rooted at any given node follow the heap property by swapping if necessary.

Time Complexity

The time complexity of heapify depends on the height of the heap. Since a heap is a complete binary tree, its height is logarithmic in the number of elements (O(log n)). Therefore, the time complexity of heapify is O(log n), which makes it an efficient operation.

Use Cases

Heapify is commonly used in various algorithms and applications:

  • Heap sort: Heapify is a crucial step in the heap sort algorithm, where we transform an unsorted array into a sorted one using heaps.
  • Priority queues: Priority queues often utilize heaps and require efficient heapify operations to maintain their priority ordering.
  • Graph algorithms: Algorithms like Dijkstra’s shortest path algorithm and Prim’s minimum spanning tree algorithm heavily rely on heaps and require frequent heapify operations during their execution.


Heapify is an essential operation in data structures when dealing with heaps. It ensures that a given array can be efficiently transformed into a valid heap, allowing for optimal performance in various algorithms. Understanding how to implement and utilize heapify can greatly enhance your ability to solve complex problems efficiently.

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