binary tree representation of trees

(data structure)

Definition: A way to represent a multiway tree as a binary tree. The leftmost child, c, of a node, n, in the multiway tree is the left child, c', of the corresponding node, n', in the binary tree. The immediately right sibling of c is the right child of c'.

Formal Definition: A multiway tree T can be represented by a corresponding binary tree B. Let {n1,…, nk} be nodes of the multiway tree, T. Let {n'1,…, n'k} be nodes of the corresponding binary tree B. Node nk corresponds to n'k. In particular, nodes nk and n'k have the same labels and if nk is the root of T, n'k is the root of B. Connections correspond as follows:

Also known as first child-next sibling binary tree, doubly-chained tree, filial-heir chain.

Aggregate parent (I am a part of or used in ...)
multiway tree, k-ary tree, Schorr-Waite graph marking algorithm.

Note: See [Knuth97, 1:333, Sect. 2.3.2].

The binary tree representation of a multiway tree or k-ary tree is based on first child-next sibling representation of the tree. In this representation every node is linked with its leftmost child and its next (right nearest) sibling.

Let us see one example. Consider the following multiway tree

/ | \
/ | \
2 3 4
/ \ |
5 6 7
/ \
8 9
This tree can be represented in first child-next sibling manner as follows
/ /
5---6 7
Now, if we look at the first child-next sibling representation of the tree closely, we will see that it forms a binary tree. To see this better, we can rotate every next-sibling edge 45 degrees clockwise. After that we get the following binary tree:
/ \
5 3
\ \
6 4
This is binary tree representation of the given (multiway) tree.

Authors: AL,PEB

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If you have suggestions, corrections, or comments, please get in touch with Paul Black.

Entry modified 20 November 2008.
HTML page formatted Wed Mar 13 12:42:45 2019.

Cite this as:
Alen Lovrencic and Paul E. Black, "binary tree representation of trees", in Dictionary of Algorithms and Data Structures [online], Paul E. Black, ed. 20 November 2008. (accessed TODAY) Available from: