Methods to Implement Priority Queues

Implementation of Priority Queue

Methods to Implement Priority Queues using Python

Methods to Implement  Priority Queues using Python enable us to perform various operations like insertion, deletion, and retrieval of data with Array, Heaps, and Linked list. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the concept of Methods to Implement Priority Queues, understand their significance, and explore how to implement them using Python.

Priority Queue Python

A Priority Queue is a type of data structure that stores elements with associated priorities. Unlike traditional queues, where elements are retrieved based on the order of insertion (FIFO),

  • Priority Queues serve elements based on their priority values. Elements with higher priorities are dequeued before those with lower priorities.
Array-Based Implementation

Types of Priority Queues

What are the ways to implement priority queue?

There are several ways to implement a priority queue, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Here are some common ways to implement a priority queue:
  1. Unsorted List: Store elements in a list without any specific order. Enqueueing is fast (O(1)), but dequeuing is slow (O(n)) because you must search for the highest priority element.

  2. Sorted List: Keep elements in a sorted order by their priority. Dequeueing is fast (O(1)), but enqueueing is slow (O(n)) because you need to find the correct position.

  3. Binary Heap: Use a binary tree structure. Efficient for both enqueueing and dequeueing, with O(log n) time complexity for common operations.

  4. Fibonacci Heap: A complex but highly efficient data structure for enqueueing, dequeueing, and decreasing priorities. Offers amortized constant-time operations.

  5. Buckets or Buckets with Linked Lists: Divide priorities into fixed ranges (buckets). Elements in each bucket can be in a linked list. Good for handling varied priority distributions.

  6. Binary Search Tree (BST): Use a self-balancing binary search tree for efficient enqueueing and dequeueing with O(log n) time complexity.

  7. Heap-Ordered Array: Maintain elements in an array but follow the heap property. Balances efficiency with simplicity.

Methods to Implement Priority Queues

  • A priority queue is a data structure that stores elements, each associated with a priority. Unlike traditional queues, where elements are processed in a first-in, first-out (FIFO) manner, priority queues prioritize elements based on their assigned priority values. The element with the highest priority is processed first.

Method 1: Using Arrays

  • In this approach, each element in the array is associated with a priority value. To maintain the priority order, elements are rearranged within the array accordingly.
# Sample Python Implementation using Arrays
class PriorityQueue:
    def __init__(self):
        self.queue = []

    def enqueue(self, item, priority):
        self.queue.append((item, priority))
        self.queue.sort(key=lambda x: x[1])

    def dequeue(self):
        if not self.is_empty():
            return self.queue.pop(0)

    def is_empty(self):
        return len(self.queue) == 0

This straightforward implementation ensures that elements with higher priority are always at the front of the queue. However, it’s essential to note that this method may not be the most efficient for large datasets, as it requires sorting after every insertion.

Method 2: Using Heaps

  • Heaps are specialized tree-based data structures that excel in maintaining priority queues efficiently. A binary heap, in particular, is commonly employed for this purpose. It allows for quick insertion and extraction of the highest-priority element.
#Sample Python Implementation using Binary Heap
import heapq

class PriorityQueue:
    def __init__(self):
        self.queue = []

    def enqueue(self, item, priority):
        heapq.heappush(self.queue, (priority, item))

    def dequeue(self):
        if not self.is_empty():
            return heapq.heappop(self.queue)[1]

    def is_empty(self):
        return len(self.queue) == 0

The binary heap implementation minimizes the need for frequent sorting, making it highly efficient for real-world applications where speed is crucial.

Method 3: Using Linked Lists

  • For situations where dynamic resizing and minimal memory overhead are priorities, linked lists can be an excellent choice for implementing priority queues. Each element in the linked list contains a value and a reference to the next element.
# Sample Python Implementation using Linked List
class Node:
    def __init__(self, item, priority):
        self.item = item
        self.priority = priority = None

class PriorityQueue:
    def __init__(self):
        self.front = None

    def enqueue(self, item, priority):
        new_node = Node(item, priority)
        if not self.front or priority < self.front.priority:
   = self.front
            self.front = new_node
            current = self.front
            while and priority >=
                current =
   = new_node

    def dequeue(self):
        if not self.is_empty():
            item = self.front.item
            self.front =
            return item

    def is_empty(self):
        return self.front is None

This linked list implementation provides a balanced trade-off between simplicity and efficiency, making it suitable for scenarios with moderate data sizes.


In summary, priority queues are versatile data structures that enable efficient handling of elements based on their priorities. Whether you choose an array-based or heap-based implementation depends on your application’s needs. Understanding the fundamentals of priority queues is crucial for solving a wide range of problems in computer science and beyond.

Prime Course Trailer

Related Banners

Get PrepInsta Prime & get Access to all 200+ courses offered by PrepInsta in One Subscription

Get over 200+ course One Subscription

Courses like AI/ML, Cloud Computing, Ethical Hacking, C, C++, Java, Python, DSA (All Languages), Competitive Coding (All Languages), TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Amazon, DBMS, SQL and others

Checkout list of all the video courses in PrepInsta Prime Subscription

Checkout list of all the video courses in PrepInsta Prime Subscription