What Is Greedy Algorithm in Data Structure?


Heather Bennett

A greedy algorithm is a simple yet powerful approach to solving optimization problems in data structures. It follows the idea of making the locally optimal choice at each step to find the global optimum. In this article, we will delve deeper into understanding what a greedy algorithm is and how it works.

What is a Greedy Algorithm?

A greedy algorithm is an algorithmic paradigm that aims to find the best solution by making the most advantageous choice at each step. It works on the principle of making locally optimal choices with the hope that those choices will lead to a globally optimal solution.

How does a Greedy Algorithm work?

The working of a greedy algorithm can be summarized in three simple steps:

  1. Initialization: Start with an empty solution set.
  2. Greedy Choice: Make the locally optimal choice that offers the most immediate benefit.
  3. Optimization: Update the solution set based on the chosen option and repeat steps 2 and 3 until reaching a complete solution.

A key aspect of greedy algorithms is that they do not reconsider their choices. Once an option is selected, it becomes a part of the final solution, and its impact on future decisions is not reevaluated.

Characteristics of Greedy Algorithms

Greedy algorithms possess certain characteristics that make them suitable for solving specific types of problems. These characteristics include:

  • Greediness: A greedy algorithm always makes decisions based solely on local information without considering any future consequences. It aims to make the best choice at each step without considering the overall impact.
  • No backtracking: Once a decision is made, it cannot be undone. Greedy algorithms are inherently forward-looking and do not reconsider their previous choices.
  • Efficiency: Due to their simple nature, greedy algorithms are often efficient and have relatively low time complexity.

Applications of Greedy Algorithms

Greedy algorithms find applications in various fields, including computer science, mathematics, and operations research. Some common examples of problems that can be solved using greedy algorithms are:

  • Minimum Spanning Tree
  • Huffman Coding
  • Job Scheduling
  • Knapsack Problem
  • Interval Scheduling
  • Dijkstra’s Shortest Path Algorithm

The choice of a greedy algorithm for a specific problem depends on the nature of the problem and its constraints. While greedy algorithms offer quick solutions in many cases, they may not always guarantee an optimal solution.


In conclusion, a greedy algorithm is a simple yet effective approach to solving optimization problems. By making locally optimal choices at each step, it aims to find the globally optimal solution.

Greedy algorithms possess certain characteristics that make them suitable for specific problem types. Understanding how these algorithms work and their applications can help in designing efficient solutions to various optimization problems.

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