What Is Cycle Sort in Data Structure?


Heather Bennett

What Is Cycle Sort in Data Structure?

Cycle sort is an efficient, in-place sorting algorithm that is based on the idea of cyclic rotations. It is often used when the array contains a small range of elements, and the goal is to minimize the number of writes to memory.

How Does Cycle Sort Work?

The cycle sort algorithm divides the input array into two parts: sorted and unsorted. Initially, the sorted part is empty, and the unsorted part contains all the elements. The algorithm then repeatedly selects an element from the unsorted part and places it in its correct position in the sorted part.

The process of finding the correct position for each element involves cyclic rotations within the sorted part. It starts by selecting an element from the unsorted part and finding its correct position by counting how many elements are smaller than it. The selected element is then swapped with the element at that position.

This process continues until all elements have been placed in their correct positions, resulting in a fully sorted array.

Advantages of Cycle Sort

  • In-Place Sorting: Cycle sort operates on the given array itself without requiring any additional memory space.
  • Minimal Memory Writes: The algorithm minimizes memory writes by only performing swaps when necessary.
  • Fewer Comparisons: Unlike some other sorting algorithms, cycle sort does not involve unnecessary comparisons between elements, making it efficient for arrays with expensive comparison operations.

Limitations of Cycle Sort

  • Inefficient for Large Arrays: While cycle sort performs well for arrays with a small range of elements, it becomes less efficient as the array size increases.
  • Not a Stable Sorting Algorithm: Cycle sort does not preserve the relative order of elements with equal values, making it unsuitable for sorting data that requires stability.

Implementation of Cycle Sort in C++

Here’s an example implementation of cycle sort in C++:

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

void cycleSort(int arr[], int n) {
    // Implementation of cycle sort algorithm goes here

int main() {
    int arr[] = {5, 4, 3, 2, 1};
    int n = sizeof(arr) / sizeof(arr[0]);

    cycleSort(arr, n);

    cout << "Sorted array: ";
    for (int i = 0; i < n; i++) {
        cout << arr[i] << " ";

    return 0;

In the above example, you can replace the "Implementation of cycle sort algorithm goes here" comment with the actual code to perform cycle sort on the given array.


Cycle sort is a simple yet efficient sorting algorithm that minimizes memory writes and performs in-place sorting. It is particularly useful for small range arrays and situations where memory writes are expensive. However, it may not be suitable for large arrays or when stability is required.

Understanding different sorting algorithms like cycle sort is essential for any programmer or computer science enthusiast. By knowing the strengths and limitations of each algorithm, you can choose the most appropriate one for your specific use case.

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