What Is Heap Data Structure Java?


Angela Bailey

The heap data structure is a fundamental concept in computer science and programming, particularly in the context of Java programming. It is a complete binary tree-based data structure that satisfies the heap property. In this article, we will explore what the heap data structure is and how it is implemented in Java.

What is a Heap?

A heap is a specialized tree-based data structure that satisfies the heap property. The heap property states that for any given node in the tree, the value of that node must be greater than or equal to (in a max heap) or less than or equal to (in a min heap) the values of its children nodes.

A binary heap is a specific type of heap where each node has at most two children. The binary heap can be visualized as a complete binary tree, meaning that all levels of the tree are fully filled except possibly for the last level, which is filled from left to right.

Max Heap vs. Min Heap

In a max heap, the value of each parent node is greater than or equal to its child nodes. This means that the maximum value in the heap resides at the root node. On the other hand, in a min heap, each parent node has a value less than or equal to its child nodes, and hence, the minimum value resides at the root node.

Heap Operations

The main operations performed on heaps include:

  • Insertion: Adding an element to the heap while maintaining its properties.
  • Deletion: Removing an element from the heap while maintaining its properties.
  • Peek/Extract: Retrieving (without removing) either the maximum or minimum element from the heap.

Heap Data Structure in Java

In Java, the heap data structure is typically implemented using an array. The array representation of a heap follows a specific ordering that allows for efficient access and manipulation of elements.

To create a heap in Java, the PriorityQueue class from the java.util package can be utilized. This class provides an implementation of a priority queue based on a binary heap. Elements are inserted into the priority queue according to their natural order or using a specified comparator.

Here’s an example of creating and using a max heap in Java:

import java.util.PriorityQueue;

public class HeapExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // Create a max heap
        PriorityQueue<Integer> maxHeap = new PriorityQueue<>(Collections.reverseOrder());

        // Insert elements into the max heap

        // Peek the maximum element
        System.out.println("Maximum element: " + maxHeap.peek());

        // Remove the maximum element
        System.println("Removed maximum element: " + maxHeap.poll());


The output of the above code would be:

Maximum element: 8
Removed maximum element: 8

In this example, we created a PriorityQueue object named maxHeap, which represents a max heap. We added elements to the heap using the offer() method and retrieved the maximum element using peek(). Finally, we removed and printed the maximum element using poll().


The heap data structure is a powerful tool for managing and organizing data in Java. By understanding the concepts of heaps and their implementation in Java, you can efficiently solve various problems that require prioritization or sorting of elements. Remember to leverage the appropriate Java classes, such as PriorityQueue, to simplify the implementation process.

With this knowledge, you are now equipped to incorporate heap data structures into your Java programs effectively.

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