What Is LIFO Data Structure?


Heather Bennett

What Is LIFO Data Structure?

The LIFO (Last-In, First-Out) data structure is a type of data structure where the last element added to the structure will be the first one to be removed. It follows the principle of “last in, first out.” This concept is similar to a stack of plates, where the last plate placed on top is the first one to be removed.

How Does LIFO Work?

In a LIFO data structure, elements are added and removed from only one end, known as the top. When an element is added to the structure, it gets pushed onto the top. Similarly, when an element needs to be removed from the structure, it gets popped off from the top.

This behavior can be visualized using a real-life example. Consider a stack of books placed on top of each other.

When you add a new book to the stack, you place it on top. If you want to remove a book from the stack, you will remove it from the top.

Advantages of Using LIFO

  • Simplicity: The LIFO data structure is simple to understand and implement.
  • Efficiency: Adding and removing elements from only one end results in efficient operations.
  • Reversal: The order in which elements are stored can easily be reversed by popping them off one by one.

Use Cases for LIFO

LIFO data structures find applications in various domains such as programming, operating systems, and more:

  • Evaluation of mathematical expressions: In computer programming, LIFO data structures, such as stacks, are used to evaluate mathematical expressions. Operators and operands are pushed onto the stack and evaluated in a specific order.
  • Function call management: LIFO data structures help manage function calls in programming languages.

    The last-called function is executed first, and when its execution is complete, it is removed from the stack.

  • Memory management: Operating systems use LIFO data structures to manage memory allocation and deallocation. The most recently allocated memory block is deallocated first.

Implementing LIFO in Programming Languages

LIFO data structures can be implemented using arrays or linked lists. In programming languages like Python, C++, or Java, you can use built-in data structures like stacks to implement a LIFO structure.

In Python, for example, you can use the list data structure as a stack by using the append() method to push elements onto the stack and the pop() method to remove elements from the top.

stack = []
stack.append(10)  # Pushes 10 onto the stack
stack.append(20)  # Pushes 20 onto the stack

top_element = stack.pop()  # Removes and returns 20 (the top element)

print(top_element)  # Output: 20

In this example, we create an empty list called stack. We then use the append() method to push elements onto the stack. Finally, we use the pop() method to remove and return the top element from the stack.


The LIFO data structure follows the principle of “last in, first out.” It is a simple and efficient way to store and retrieve elements.

LIFO data structures find applications in various domains, including programming and operating systems. By using built-in data structures like stacks, implementing LIFO in programming languages becomes straightforward.

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