# dictionary

(data structure)

**Definition:**
An *abstract data type* storing items, or values. A value is accessed by an associated *key*. Basic operations are new, insert, find and delete.

**Formal Definition:** The operations new(), insert(k, v, D), and find(k, D) may be defined with *axiomatic semantics* as follows.

- new() returns a dictionary
- find(k, insert(k, v, D)) = v
- find(k, insert(j, v, D)) = find(k, D) if k ≠ j

where k and j are keys, v is a value, and D is a dictionary. The modifier function delete(k, D) may be defined as follows.

- delete(k, new()) = new()
- delete(k, insert(k, v, D)) = delete(k, D)
- delete(k, insert(j, v, D)) = insert(j, v, delete(k, D)) if k ≠ j

If we want find to be a *total function*, we could define find(k, new()) using a special value: *fail*. This only changes the return type of find.

- find(k, new()) =
*fail*

**Also known as** association list, map, property list.

**Generalization** (I am a kind of ...)

*binary relation*, *abstract data type*.

**Specialization** (... is a kind of me.)

*associative array*, *invertible Bloom lookup table* with high probability.

**See also**
*total order*, *set* Some implementations: *linked list*, *hash table*, *B-tree*, *jump list*, *directed acyclic word graph*.

*Note:
The terms "association list" and "property list" are used with LISP-like languages and in the area of Artificial Intelligence. These suggest a relatively small number of items, whereas a dictionary may be quite large. Professionals in the Data Management area have specialized semantics for "dictionary" and related terms. *

*
* A dictionary defines a *binary relation* that maps keys to values. The keys of a dictionary are a *set*.

* Contributions by Rob Stewart 16 March 2004.*

Author: PEB

## Implementation

(C++, Pascal, and Fortran). Maksim Goleta's C# Collections sorted (C#) and unordered (C#).

Go to the
Dictionary of Algorithms and Data
Structures home page.

If you have suggestions, corrections, or comments, please get in touch
with Paul Black.

Entry modified 2 November 2020.

HTML page formatted Mon Nov 2 12:36:42 2020.

Cite this as:

Paul E. Black, "dictionary", in
*Dictionary of Algorithms and Data Structures* [online], Paul E. Black, ed. 2 November 2020. (accessed TODAY)
Available from: https://www.nist.gov/dads/HTML/dictionary.html