What Is the Circular Linked List in Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

What Is the Circular Linked List in Data Structure?

A linked list is a data structure that consists of a sequence of nodes, where each node contains a reference to the next node in the sequence. In a circular linked list, the last node of the list points back to the first node, forming a loop or circle. This means that there is no end or beginning in the traditional sense.

Advantages of Circular Linked Lists

Circular linked lists offer several advantages over their linear counterparts:

  • Efficient traversal: Since there is no end to a circular linked list, you can start traversing from any point in the list and continue until you reach that same point again. This makes circular linked lists ideal for applications where you need to repeatedly cycle through all elements.
  • Space efficiency: In a linear linked list, each node requires additional memory for storing a pointer to the next node.

    However, in a circular linked list, the last node points back to the first node, eliminating the need for an extra null pointer. This can save memory space.

  • Implementation simplicity: Circular linked lists are relatively straightforward to implement compared to other complex data structures. The circular nature simplifies operations such as insertion and deletion at both ends of the list since there are no special cases for handling first and last nodes.

Operations on Circular Linked Lists

Similar to linear linked lists, circular linked lists support various operations:

1. Traversal

To traverse a circular linked list, start at any node and continue until you reach that same starting point again. You should check whether the list is empty before proceeding.

2. Insertion

Insertion in a circular linked list can be performed at the beginning, end, or at any specific position. To insert a node at the beginning, create a new node and adjust the pointers accordingly. To insert at the end, modify the last node’s pointer to point to the new node and update the first node’s pointer accordingly.

3. Deletion

Similar to insertion, deletion can be performed at any position in a circular linked list. To delete a node, adjust the pointers of its previous and next nodes to bypass it. If deleting the first or last node, make sure to update the pointers accordingly.

Example: Circular Linked List in C++

Here’s an example of implementing a circular linked list in C++:

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

class Node {
    int data;
    Node* next;

void traverseCircularLinkedList(Node* start) {
    Node* current = start;

    if (start == nullptr) {
        cout << "Circular linked list is empty." << endl;

    do {
        cout << current->data << " ";
        current = current->next;
    } while (current != start);

    cout << endl;

int main() {
    // Create three nodes
    Node* first = new Node();
    Node* second = new Node();
    Node* third = new Node();

    // Assign data values and set next pointers
    first->data = 1;
    first->next = second;

    second->data = 2;
    second->next = third;

    third->data = 3;
    third->next = first; // Make the list circular

    // Traverse the circular linked list

    return 0;

This example demonstrates the creation of a circular linked list with three nodes, where each node points to the next node. The last node points back to the first node to form a circular structure. The traverseCircularLinkedList() function is used to traverse and print the elements of the circular linked list.

Note: Remember to deallocate memory by deleting nodes when you no longer need them.


Circular linked lists are a variation of linked lists that offer efficient traversal, space efficiency, and implementation simplicity. They are useful in scenarios where cyclic behavior is desired or when you need to repeatedly cycle through all elements in a data structure. Understanding the operations and implementation details of circular linked lists can help you utilize them effectively in your programs.

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