What Is a Short Data Type?


Scott Campbell

A short data type is a commonly used data type in programming languages like C, C++, and Java. It is used to store integer values within a specific range. The name “short” comes from the fact that it uses less memory compared to other integer data types.

Declaration and Size

The short data type is declared using the keyword short followed by a variable name. For example:

short myVariable;

The size of the short data type varies depending on the programming language and the system architecture. In most cases, it occupies 2 bytes or 16 bits of memory, allowing it to represent values ranging from -32,768 to 32,767.

Usage and Benefits

The short data type is useful when memory optimization is crucial or when working with large arrays of numbers that don’t require a larger range. By using the short data type instead of int or long int, you can reduce memory usage and improve performance.

Here are some scenarios where you might consider using the short data type:

  • Saving Memory in Arrays: If you need to store a large number of integers in an array where the values fall within the range supported by a short data type, using shorts instead of ints can significantly reduce memory consumption.
  • Data Transmission: When sending or receiving integer values over a network or between different systems, using shorts instead of larger integer types can help reduce bandwidth usage.
  • Packed Structures: In certain cases where you need to optimize memory usage for structures containing multiple variables, using shorts can be beneficial.

Limits and Considerations

While the short data type offers memory optimization, it comes with some limitations:

  • Smaller Value Range: Shorts can represent smaller integer values compared to int or long int. If you need to work with larger numbers, you’ll need to use a different data type.
  • Potential Loss of Precision: If the assigned value exceeds the range supported by a short data type, it may result in unexpected behavior or loss of precision.
  • Promotion to int: When performing arithmetic operations on shorts, they are often promoted to int before the operation is executed. This can affect performance and lead to potential overflow issues if not handled carefully.


Let’s look at a simple example in C++ that demonstrates the usage of the short data type:

#include <iostream>

int main() {
  short temperature = -10;
  std::cout << "Temperature: " << temperature << std::endl;
  return 0;

In this example, we declare a variable named temperature of type short and assign it a value of -10. We then print the value using cout. The output will be:

Temperature: -10

As you can see, the short data type allows us to store and manipulate small integer values efficiently while saving memory.


The short data type is a valuable tool for optimizing memory usage in programming languages. By utilizing shorts instead of larger integer types when appropriate, you can reduce memory consumption and improve performance in your programs. However, it's important to consider its limitations and ensure that your values fall within its supported range to avoid unexpected behavior or loss of precision.

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