# The Importance of Priority Queues

Priority queues can solve a whole bunch of different problems. Priority queues, also called heaps, are an oft-misunderstood and underestimated concept in computer science.

Priority queues_, _also called heaps,are an oft-misunderstood and underestimated concept in computer science. Though they are very simple, priority queues can serve as powerful tools to solve some of the well-known problems in computer science.

This article focuses on the basic concept of priority queues, their usage in C++, and applications to some of the most important problems.

## The Concept Behind Priority Queues

As the name suggests, a priority queuecontains elements having a priority associated with them. Let’s start by taking a simple example.

Consider we have a list of grocery items and a priority attached to them. Let’s associate them as key-value pairs inserted into a priority queue, as shown below:

List of grocery Items with priority

`Tomatoes` are at the top of the queue and have the highest priority, followed by `Noodles``Rice`, and `Wheat`. _Let’s saywe want to push an item called `Cake`with priority equal to10._When we push `Cake` into the priority queue, the queue checks if the item has a priority greater than that of `Tomatoes` (7). If yes, then it is inserted at the top of queue. The new queue is shown below:

Cake added at the top of the priority queue

Now let’s say we want to push another grocery item (`Chocolate`)with priority equal to 2. In this case, the priority of `Chocolate` (2) is lower than the priority of `Cake` (10). So the queue pops the item `Cake` and checks for the next item `Tomatoes `(7). The case is similar to `Cake` — the queue pops out `Tomatoes`. The same rule applies to `Noodles` (5) and `Rice` (3).

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