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Definition: hash table

A lookup table that is designed to efficiently store non-contiguous keys (account numbers, part numbers, etc.) that may have wide gaps in their alphabetic or numeric sequences.

Hash tables are created with an algorithm that stores the keys into hash buckets, which contain key-value pairs. Since different keys may hash to the same bucket, the goal of hash table design is to spread out the key-value pairs evenly with each bucket containing as few key-value pairs as possible. When an item is looked up, its key is hashed to find the appropriate bucket, and the bucket is then compared to find the right key-value pair. See key-value pair, cryptographic hash function, DHT and hash total.

A Hash Table
When an item is looked up, its key is hashed into a bucket value, and the bucket is compared to find the key.