Bucket Sort Algorithm

Reading time: 30 minutes | Coding time: 10 minutes

Bucket sort is a comparison sort algorithm that works by distributing the elements of an array into a number of buckets and then each bucket is sorted individually using a separate sorting algorithm or by applying the bucket sort algorithm recursively.This algorithm is mainly useful when the input is uniformly distributed over a range.


  1. Create an empty array of size n(n empty buckets).
  2. Loop through the original array and put each array element in a “bucket”.
  3. Sort each of the non-empty buckets using insertion sort.
  4. Visit the buckets in order and put all elements back into the original array


Let's take an array A[]={0.78,0.26,0.72,0.17,0.39}. Total number of elements are n=10. So we need to create 5 buckets.
maximum element(max)=0.78
Using the formula: bi = (n)*arr[i]/(max+1), we find out bucket index of each element of the array A[].
For eg: bucket index of 0th element is bi= floor((5)(0.78)/(0.78+1))= 2
Similarly,bucket index of 1st element is bi=0
bucket index of 2nd element is bi=1
bucket index of 3rd element is bi=0
bucket index of 4th element is bi=1
Now, since buckets have been created we need to concatenate all the buckets in the order to get the sorted array.


Step 1: function bucketSort(array, n) is
Step 1: buckets ← new array of n empty lists
Step 2: M ← the maximum key value in the array
Step 3: for i = 1 to length(array) do
             insert array[i] into buckets[floor(array[i] / M * n)]
Step 4: for i = 1 to n do
Step 5: return the concatenation of buckets[1], ...., buckets[k]


Worst case time complexity:Θ(n^2)
Average case time complexity:Θ(n+k)
Best case time complexity:Θ(n+k)
Space complexity:Θ(n+k)

where n is the number of elements to be sorted and k is the number of buckets

For an upper bound on the worst-case cost, it's sufficient to show that it can't be worse. Assuming that insertion sort takes ≤cn2 steps on n elements, consider the sum

i = 1 n c | B i | 2

it is an upper bound on the cost of sorting all the buckets. For an upper bound on the worst case for bucket sort, maximize this function subject to ∑|Bi|=n (and add the remaining cost, which is O(n) for all inputs).

For a lower bound on the worst-case cost, we have to find an infinite class of actual inputs and show that their cost behaves as claimed. [0,…,0] serves to show an Ω(n2) lower bound.


  • C++


#include <iostream> 
#include <algorithm> 
#include <vector> 
using namespace std; 
float findMax(float A[], int n) 
    if (n == 1) 
        return A[0]; 
    return max(A[n-1], findMax(A, n-1)); 
void bucketSort(float arr[], int n) 
	float max=findMax(arr,n);
	vector<float> b[n]; 	
	// 2) Put array elements in different buckets 
	for (int i=0; i<n; i++) 
	int bi = n*arr[i]/(max+1); // Index in bucket 
	// 3) Sort individual buckets 
	for (int i=0; i<n; i++) 
	sort(b[i].begin(), b[i].end()); 
	// 4) Concatenate all buckets into arr[] 
	int index = 0; 
	for (int i = 0; i < n; i++) 
		for (int j = 0; j < b[i].size(); j++) 
		arr[index++] = b[i][j]; 
int main() 
	int n; 
    float arr[n];
    for(int i=0;i<n;i++)
	bucketSort(arr, n); 
	cout << "Sorted array is \n"; 
	for (int i=0; i<n; i++) 
	cout << arr[i] << " "; 
	return 0; 


Constructing Histograms
One common computation in data visualization and analysis is computing a histogram. For example, n students might be assigned integer scores in some range, such as 0 to 100, and are then placed into ranges or “buckets” based on these scores.


Is Bucket sort an in-place algorithm?

It is definitely not an "in-place" sorting algorithm as it uses the additional space which is as big as the original array.