A queue is a container that supports retrieval by first-in, first-out (FIFO) order. The get and put operations for a queue are usually called enqueue and dequeue, other operations may include isEmpty. A full description of queues can be found online here.

Queue’s minimise the maximum time spent waiting, however the average wait time will be the same whether a LIFO or a FIFO is used.

A queue can be easily implemented in Go using slices.

queue of integers

package queue

type Queue []int

func (q *Queue) Enqueue(x int) {
	*q = append(*q, x)

func (q *Queue) Dequeue() (int, bool) {
	if q.isEmpty() {
		return 0, false

	x := (*q)[0]
	*q = (*q)[1:]
	return x, true

func (q *Queue) isEmpty() bool {
	return len(*q) == 0

We can then use our queue of integers like this

func fn() {
    var q Queue


    x := q.Dequeue()  // x = 1
    x = q.Dequeue()   // x = 2
    x = q.Dequeue()   // x = 3

queue of structs

Today I found a nice implementation of a Queue in the graph package by the people at Gonum. I have stripped it down to a queue of structs

// Queue implements a FIFO queue.
type Queue struct {
	head int
	data []item

// Item: real implementation would have something useful here.
type item struct {
	data string

head is the index of the head of the queue. Length of the queue is then the length of the data slice less the index of the head item.

// Len returns the number of items in the queue.
func (q *Queue) Len() int { return len(q.data) - q.head }

In order to reuse the underlying array, when an item is enqueued, if there is room at the front of the queue then we copy the current queue contents back to the start of the array.

// Enqueue adds the node n to the back of the queue.
func (q *Queue) Enqueue(n item) {
	if len(q.data) == cap(q.data) && q.head > 0 {
		ln := q.Len()
		copy(q.data, q.data[q.head:])
		q.head = 0
		q.data = append(q.data[:ln], n)
	} else {
		q.data = append(q.data, n)

Note that arguments to copy may be overlapping, Go’s built in copy allows this. This is a nice efficiency tweak over the simple implementation given at the start of this post. We now reduce the number of times that a new underlying array is created.

The memory usage of this implementation is quite different from the simple queue. Like as is often the case with data structures, different data structures may perform differently under different workloads, one is not necessarily better than another.


[Ski08] - The Algorithm Design Manual, Steven S. Skiena
[CLRS09] - Introduction to Algorithms, Thomas H.Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, Clifford Stein
[Mor] - Open Data Structures, Pat Morin, Edition 0.1