Derived Data Type

Definition of Derived Data Type

A derived data type, in the context of computer programming, is a complex data type created from fundamental data types like integers, characters, and floating-point numbers. Derived data types include arrays, structures, unions, and pointers, which are used to aggregate and manipulate basic data types in more sophisticated ways. These data types provide greater flexibility and functionality in programming by allowing developers to create customized, composite variables to meet their specific needs.


The phonetics of the keyword “Derived Data Type” can be represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as: /dɪˈraɪvd ˈdeɪtə ˈtaɪp/

Key Takeaways

  1. Derived data types are formed by combining the basic data types like int, float, and char using various programming constructs such as arrays, pointers, and structures.
  2. These types enable developers to create more complex data structures, allowing more efficient manipulation and representation of real-world entities within a program.
  3. Commonly used derived data types include arrays for storing multiple values of the same type, structures for grouping related variables, and unions for efficient memory usage with multiple related datatypes.

Importance of Derived Data Type

The term “Derived Data Type” is important in technology because it enables developers to create more complex and higher-level data structures, tailored to specific applications and scenarios.

Derived data types are formed by modifying or combining fundamental data types, such as integers, characters, or floating-point numbers.

These customized data types facilitate better organization, storage, and management of data within a program, as well as providing an opportunity for code optimizations and improved readability.

As a result, understanding and utilizing derived data types significantly enhances the efficiency, flexibility, and adaptability of software solutions across multiple domains, ultimately contributing to more powerful and functional software.


Derived data types are essential in the realm of programming, as they expand upon the capabilities of fundamental data types and provide flexibility for developers to represent an extensive range of values and data structures. These derived data types are built upon existing fundamental types, such as integers, floating-point numbers, and characters, serving as a foundation for constructing more complex and tailored data structures.

By doing so, they address the unique needs and requirements of specific programming tasks, allowing developers to handle data more efficiently and in ways that align closer to their objectives. In general, derived data types facilitate the handling of complex data and promote modular programming.

They can include arrays, pointers, structures, and unions, which unlock a myriad of possibilities in organizing and manipulating data. For instance, arrays offer a way to store and manage multiple variables of the same type, while structures allow the bundling of multiple variables of different types under one umbrella.

The utility of derived data types extends beyond mere organization of data; they often enable improved performance and optimized memory usage, proving their indispensability in software development. As a result, developers can focus on tackling problems more effectively and creating solutions that are tailored to specific use-cases instead of working within the confines of basic data types.

Examples of Derived Data Type

Derived data types in programming languages refer to complex data types formed by combining simple, or primitive, data types. These complex data types allow developers to handle more complex information within their code. Here are three real-world examples of technologies that make use of derived data types:

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): GIS software enables the analysis and display of spatial data. In such systems, derived data types such as structs and arrays are used to store coordinates (latitude and longitude) and other spatial information related to map elements like points and polygons. This allows GIS applications to efficiently manage and analyze geographic data.

Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS): RDBMS software is used to store, manipulate, and analyze data within relational databases. Derived data types, such as arrays, tuples, and records, are employed to represent complex data elements within the database. For instance, the PostgreSQL database features user-defined composite types that allow developers to create custom derived data types to model complex real-world entities.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software: CAD software is used for designing and drafting technical models, such as those used in engineering, architecture, and manufacturing. Within CAD systems, derived data types are used to represent complex shapes and structures. Elements like points, lines, curves, and surfaces may be stored using various derived data types, such as tuples or structs. This enables efficient and precise manipulation of geometric data and supports sophisticated design processes.

Derived Data Type FAQs

1. What is a derived data type?

A derived data type is a data type that can be created using primary or built-in data types and other derived data types. These data types are formed by applying certain operations or combining existing data types, allowing more complex data structures and greater flexibility in programming.

2. What are some examples of derived data types?

Some common examples of derived data types include arrays, structures, unions, pointers, and classes in Object-Oriented Programming languages. These data types provide more advanced functionality and are extremely useful in various programming applications.

3. How are derived data types different from built-in data types?

Built-in data types, also known as basic or primitive data types, are the foundational data types provided by the programming language. These include int, float, char, double, etc. Derived data types, on the other hand, are created from these basic data types and provide more versatile functionality by combining multiple basic data types and operations.

4. Why should we use derived data types?

Derived data types are beneficial because they allow us to create more complex and customized data structures that are better suited for specific programming tasks. These data types enable the efficient organization and storage of data, improve the functionality of the programming code, and enhance overall program readability and maintainability.

5. Do derived data types hold values or addresses?

Derived data types can hold both values and addresses, depending on their use. For example, an array is a derived data type that holds the values of a particular data type, while a pointer is a derived data type that holds the address of another variable. Structures and unions can hold a combination of values and addresses, while classes can hold member variables and methods in Object-Oriented Programming languages.

Related Technology Terms

  • Composite Data Type
  • Array
  • Structure
  • Union
  • Enumeration

Sources for More Information


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