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A stack mimics a stack of paper. You add and remove things from the top. This is also known as "Last In, First Out" (LIFO).


  • view top of the stack: top() or peek()
  • remove top of the stack: pop()
    • this may or may not return the top item
  • add to the top of the stack: push(item)

Note that you shouldn't need to (or be able to) iterate through a stack. Knowing the size of the stack may also be optional.


  • Keep track of the head, or top of the stack


A list can sometimes be used to mimic a stack:

  • for a Python list:
    • list.append()
    • list.pop()
    • list[-1] to access top
  • for a JavaScript array:
    • array.push()
    • array.pop()
    • array[array.length - 1] to access top

Other language libraries use another ADT to implement a stack:

  • C++ stack (uses a deque)
  • Java's Stack (uses a vector)

Since lists can be used to implement a stack, it follows that they can also be implemented directly using list implementation techniques.


Reversing a string:

  • iterate through a string pushing each letter onto stack
  • pop off all elements into a new string

Stack machines, like an interpreter for Reverse Polish Notation.

The shunting-yard algorithm parses infix expression (1 + 2) to produce postfix ones (RPN) or an AST. Uses both stack and queue.

TODO: Backtracking

Compilers & Interpreters:

  • space for parameters, local variables, and return address of each function call (stack frame)
  • compiler's syntax check for matching braces

Virtual (stack) machines:

  • JVM (Java, Clojure, Scala, Groovy)
  • CLR & Mono (C#)
  • CPython (Python)
  • Ruby MRI (>=1.9)


Class Stack<E>. Java Collections stack.

stack<T, Sequence>. C++ STL stack.

Using Lists as Stacks. Data Structures. Python.

Array. Javascript reference. MDN.