What Is Underflow and Overflow in Data Structure?


Heather Bennett

Underflow and Overflow in Data Structure

In the field of data structure, it is important to understand the concepts of underflow and overflow. These terms are used to describe situations where the size or capacity of a data structure is exceeded or not met, respectively. Let’s explore these concepts further.

What is Underflow?

Underflow occurs when an operation is attempted on an empty data structure such as a stack or queue. In simpler terms, it means that there are no elements present in the data structure to perform a particular operation on.

An example of underflow can be seen when trying to remove an element from an empty stack using the pop() operation. Since there are no elements in the stack, it is not possible to remove any element, resulting in underflow.

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Underflow can lead to unexpected behavior or errors in programs if not handled properly. It is important to check for underflow conditions before performing any operations on a data structure.

What is Overflow?

Overflow occurs when there is no more space available in a data structure to store additional elements. This happens when the maximum capacity of the data structure has been reached or exceeded.

An example of overflow can be observed when trying to add another element to a full array. Since there is no more space available, it becomes impossible to insert any further elements, resulting in overflow.

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Overflow can lead to loss of data or program crashes if not handled appropriately. It is crucial to consider overflow conditions and implement mechanisms like resizing or dynamic allocation of memory to avoid such issues.

Handling Underflow and Overflow

  • To handle underflow situations, appropriate checks should be performed before executing operations on a data structure. For example, before removing an element from a stack, it is essential to check if the stack is empty.
  • To handle overflow situations, dynamic resizing of data structures can be implemented. This involves increasing the size of the structure when it reaches its maximum capacity.


In summary, underflow and overflow are important concepts in data structure that refer to situations where the size or capacity of a structure is not met or exceeded. It is crucial to handle these conditions appropriately to prevent unexpected behavior and ensure efficient program execution.

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