What Is the Distance of a Graph in Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

When working with graphs in data structure, one important concept to understand is the distance of a graph. The distance of a graph refers to the number of edges it takes to travel from one vertex to another. It is commonly used to measure the shortest path between two vertices in a graph.

Understanding Graphs

Before diving into the distance of a graph, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of what graphs are. In computer science, a graph is a collection of nodes (or vertices) connected by edges. Graphs are widely used to represent relationships between different entities.

Types of Graphs

There are two main types of graphs: directed and undirected. In a directed graph, edges have a specific direction and can only be traversed in that direction. On the other hand, an undirected graph allows traversal in both directions along its edges.

The Distance Metric

The distance metric measures the shortest path between two vertices in a graph. It is usually represented as the minimum number of edges that need to be traversed to reach from one vertex to another. The concept of distance plays a vital role in various algorithms and applications like network routing, recommendation systems, and social network analysis.

Breadth-First Search (BFS)

Breadth-First Search (BFS) is one algorithm commonly used to calculate the distance between vertices in an unweighted graph. It starts from an initial vertex and explores all its neighboring vertices before moving on to their neighbors. By doing so, it guarantees that any vertex reached during traversal is at the shortest possible distance.

Algorithm Steps:

  1. Choose an initial vertex and mark it as visited.
  2. Add the initial vertex to a queue.
  3. While the queue is not empty, perform the following steps:
    • Remove the first vertex from the queue.
    • Visit all unvisited neighboring vertices of the removed vertex and mark them as visited. Add them to the queue.
    • Keep track of the distance of each visited vertex from the initial vertex.


Let’s consider a simple undirected graph with five vertices: A, B, C, D, and E. The edges between these vertices are as follows: A-B, B-C, C-D, D-E. We want to find the distance between vertex A and vertex E using BFS.

The BFS algorithm will start at vertex A and visit its neighboring vertices B. From B, it will move to C and then to D. Finally, it will reach E. During this traversal, we keep track of the distance from A to each visited vertex. In this case, the distance from A to E is 4 (A-B-C-D-E).

In Conclusion

The distance of a graph is an essential concept in data structures and algorithms. It measures the shortest path between two vertices in a graph and plays a significant role in various applications. Understanding how to calculate distances using algorithms like BFS can greatly enhance your ability to analyze graphs effectively.

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