Terms I

We will discuss some of the basic terminology associated with graphs. Some of this vocabulary should feel familiar from the trees section; trees are a specific type of graph!

  • Nodes: Node is the general term for a structure which contains an item.
    • Size: The size of a graph is the number of nodes.
    • Capacity: The capacity of a graph is the maximum number of nodes.

Nodes can be, but are not limited to the following examples: - physical locations (IE Manhattan, Topeka, Salina), - computer components (IE CPU, GPU, RAM), or - people (IE Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Emma Stone)

  • Edges: Edges are the connection between two nodes. Depending on the data, edges can represent physical distance, films, cost, and much more.
    • Adjacent: Node A and node B are said to be adjacent if there is an edge from node A to node B.
    • Neighbors: The neighbors of a node are nodes which are adjacent to the node.

Edges can be, but are not limited to: - physical distances, like the distance between cities or wiring between computer components, - cost, like bus fares, and - films, like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon example

  • Cycles: A cycle is a path where the first and last node are the only repeated nodes. More explicitly, this means that we start at node A and are able to end up back at node A.


For example, we can translate the Amtrak Train Station Connections into a graph where the edges represent direct train station connections.

Amtrak Train Graph Amtrak Train Graph ^[Generated using the Amtrak system map from 2018. This graph does not include all stations or connections.]

Within this context, we could say that Little Rock and Fort Worth are adjacent. The neighbors of San Antonio are Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. The Amtrak Train Graph has multiple cycles. One of these is Kansas City -> St. Louis -> Chicago -> Kansas City.