difference between union and structure

The Difference Between Union and Structure – Understanding the Basics


When it comes to programming languages, it is important to understand the basics of data types, variables, and data structures. In this context, two important concepts that are of utmost significance are union and structure. Both union and structure are used in programming language to define custom data types that can store multiple values. However, there are differences between these two concepts, and in this article, we will delve into the details of union and structure and explore their differences.

What is a Union?

In programming language, a union is a data structure that enables the storage of different data types in the same memory space. In other words, a union is a container type that can hold different data types but only one at a time. This means that a union variable can store values of different data types, but at any given time, only one of its member variables can have a value. The use of a union is preferred when a programmer wants to save memory by defining a data type that can hold multiple values but has a fixed memory size.

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What is a Structure?

Like a union, a structure is another way to define a custom data type in a programming language. A structure is a collection of variables of different data types that are grouped together under a single name. With a structure, a programmer can define a data type that can hold multiple values of different data types. Each member variable of a structure can have its own value, making it different from a union. A programmer can define a structure to hold a set of related pieces of data, which can be manipulated as a single entity within a program.

Main Differences Between Union and Structure

The main differences between union and structure are as follows:

1. Data Storage: A union can store only one member variable at a time, but a structure can store all its member variables at the same time.

2. Memory Allocation: Union variables take up only the space needed to hold the largest member variable, while structure variables take up space that is equal to the sum of the sizes of all member variables.

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3. Accessing Variables: In a union variable, only one member variable can be accessed at a time, while in a structure, all member variables can be accessed independently.


In conclusion, unions and structures are essential concepts when it comes to programming language. Both union and structure are used to define custom data types and store multiple values. However, they differ in terms of data storage, memory allocation, and accessing variables. Understanding the differences between these concepts will enable you to make better design decisions while developing your software.

Table difference between union and structure

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