Python Data Structure and Algorithm Tutorial – Adjacency List

Adjacency List


In this tutorial, you will learn what an adjacency list is. Also, you will find working examples of adjacency list in Python.

An adjacency list represents a graph as an array of linked lists.

The index of the array represents a vertex and each element in its linked list represents the other vertices that form an edge with the vertex.

Adjacency List representation

A graph and its equivalent adjacency list representation are shown below.

Adjacency List representation
Adjacency List representation

An adjacency list is efficient in terms of storage because we only need to store the values for the edges. For a sparse graph with millions of vertices and edges, this can mean a lot of saved space.

Adjacency List Structure

The simplest adjacency list needs a node data structure to store a vertex and a graph data structure to organize the nodes.

We stay close to the basic definition of a graph – a collection of vertices and edges {V, E}. For simplicity, we use an unlabeled graph as opposed to a labeled one i.e. the vertices are identified by their indices 0,1,2,3.

Let’s dig into the data structures at play here.

struct node
    int vertex;
    struct node* next;

struct Graph
    int numVertices;
    struct node** adjLists;

Don’t let the struct node** adjLists overwhelm you.

All we are saying is we want to store a pointer to struct node*. This is because we don’t know how many vertices the graph will have and so we cannot create an array of Linked Lists at compile time.

Adjacency List C++

It is the same structure but by using the in-built list STL data structures of C++, we make the structure a bit cleaner. We are also able to abstract the details of the implementation.

class Graph
    int numVertices;
    list<int> *adjLists;
    Graph(int V);
    void addEdge(int src, int dest);

Adjacency List Java

We use Java Collections to store the Array of Linked Lists.

class Graph
    private int numVertices;
    private LinkedList<integer> adjLists[];

The type of LinkedList is determined by what data you want to store in it. For a labeled graph, you could store a dictionary instead of an Integer

Adjacency List Python

There is a reason Python gets so much love. A simple dictionary of vertices and its edges is a sufficient representation of a graph. You can make the vertex itself as complex as you want.

graph = {'A': set(['B', 'C']),
         'B': set(['A', 'D', 'E']),
         'C': set(['A', 'F']),
         'D': set(['B']),
         'E': set(['B', 'F']),
         'F': set(['C', 'E'])}

Python Examples

/* Adjascency List representation in Python */

class AdjNode:
    def __init__(self, value):
        self.vertex = value = None

class Graph:
    def __init__(self, num):
        self.V = num
        self.graph = [None] * self.V

    /* Add edges */
    def add_edge(self, s, d):
        node = AdjNode(d) = self.graph[s]
        self.graph[s] = node

        node = AdjNode(s) = self.graph[d]
        self.graph[d] = node

    /* Print the graph */
    def print_agraph(self):
        for i in range(self.V):
            print("Vertex " + str(i) + ":", end="")
            temp = self.graph[i]
            while temp:
                print(" -> {}".format(temp.vertex), end="")
                temp =
            print(" n")

if __name__ == "__main__":
    V = 5

    # Create graph and edges
    graph = Graph(V)
    graph.add_edge(0, 1)
    graph.add_edge(0, 2)
    graph.add_edge(0, 3)
    graph.add_edge(1, 2)


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