List (abstract data type)

In computer science, a list or sequence is an abstract data type that represents a finite number of ordered values, where the same value may occur more than once. An instance of a list is a computer representation of the mathematical concept of a tuple or finite sequence; the (potentially) infinite analog of a list is a stream.[1]:§3.5 Lists are a basic example of containers, as they contain other values. If the same value occurs multiple times, each occurrence is considered a distinct item.

A singly-linked list structure, implementing a list with three integer elements.

The name list is also used for several concrete data structures that can be used to implement abstract lists, especially linked lists and arrays. In some contexts, such as in Lisp programming, the term list may refer specifically to a linked list rather than an array. In class-based programming, lists are usually provided as instances of subclasses of a generic "list" class, and traversed via separate iterators.

Many programming languages provide support for list data types, and have special syntax and semantics for lists and list operations. A list can often be constructed by writing the items in sequence, separated by commas, semicolons, and/or spaces, within a pair of delimiters such as parentheses '()', brackets '[]', braces '{}', or angle brackets '<>'. Some languages may allow list types to be indexed or sliced like array types, in which case the data type is more accurately described as an array.

In type theory and functional programming, abstract lists are usually defined inductively by two operations: nil that yields the empty list, and cons, which adds an item at the beginning of a list.[2]


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