Stooge sort

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Stooge sort
Sorting stoogesort anim.gif
Visualization of Stooge sort (only shows swaps).
ClassSorting algorithm
Data structureArray
Worst-case performanceO(nlog 3/log 1.5)
Worst-case space complexityO(n)

Stooge sort is a recursive sorting algorithm. It is notable for its exceptional bad time complexity of O(nlog 3 / log 1.5 ) = O(n2.7095...). The running time of the algorithm is thus slower compared to reasonable sorting algorithms, and is slower than Bubble sort, a canonical example of a fairly inefficient sort. It is however more efficient than Slowsort. The name comes from The Three Stooges.[1]

The algorithm is defined as follows:

  • If the value at the start is larger than the value at the end, swap them.
  • If there are 3 or more elements in the list, then:
    • Stooge sort the initial 2/3 of the list
    • Stooge sort the final 2/3 of the list
    • Stooge sort the initial 2/3 of the list again

It is important to get the integer sort size used in the recursive calls by rounding the 2/3 upwards, e.g. rounding 2/3 of 5 should give 4 rather than 3, as otherwise the sort can fail on certain data. However, if the code is written to end on a base case of size 1, rather than terminating on either size 1 or size 2, rounding the 2/3 of 2 upwards gives an infinite number of calls.


 function stoogesort(array L, i = 0, j = length(L)-1){
     if L[i] > L[j] then
         L[i]  L[j]
     if (j - i + 1) > 2 then
         t = (j - i + 1) / 3
         stoogesort(L, i  , j-t)
         stoogesort(L, i+t, j  )
         stoogesort(L, i  , j-t)
     return L


  • Black, Paul E. "stooge sort". Dictionary of Algorithms and Data Structures. National Institute of Standards and Technology. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  • Cormen, Thomas H.; Leiserson, Charles E.; Rivest, Ronald L.; Stein, Clifford (2001) [1990]. "Problem 7-3". Introduction to Algorithms (2nd ed.). MIT Press and McGraw-Hill. pp. 161–162. ISBN 0-262-03293-7.

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