Difference Between Array and List in C++

1. Introduction

In C++ programming, understanding the difference between an array and a list is essential for efficient data storage and manipulation. An array is a collection of elements stored in contiguous memory locations, whereas a list, specifically a std::list in C++, is a sequence of elements linked by pointers, allowing for efficient insertion and deletion.

2. Key Points

1. Arrays have a fixed size, determined at compile-time.

2. Lists are dynamic and can grow or shrink during runtime.

3. Elements in an array are stored in contiguous memory, leading to efficient access.

4. Elements in a list are linked using pointers, allowing efficient insertions and deletions.

3. Differences

Array List (std::list)
Fixed size. Dynamic size.
Contiguous memory allocation. Non-contiguous memory allocation.
Fast access to elements via index. No direct access to elements; traversal is required.
Inefficient in insertion/deletion except at the end. Efficient insertion and deletion at any point.

4. Example

#include <iostream>
#include <array>
#include <list>
using namespace std;

int main() {
    // Array example
    array<int, 3> arr = {1, 2, 3};
    cout << "Array elements: ";
    for(int i : arr) {
        cout << i << " ";
    cout << endl;

    // List example
    list<int> lst = {1, 2, 3};
    cout << "List elements: ";
    for(int i : lst) {
        cout << i << " ";
    cout << endl;

    return 0;


Array elements: 1 2 3
List elements: 1 2 3 4


1. The array example showcases a fixed-size array with elements stored in contiguous memory.

2. The list example demonstrates a dynamic list where elements can be added. Elements in the list are linked and not stored in contiguous memory.

5. When to use?

- Use arrays when you need fast access to elements, the size of the collection is known and does not change, and memory allocation is contiguous.

- Use lists when you need dynamic resizing, frequent insertions and deletions at various positions, and do not require direct access to elements by index.

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