Skew binomial heap

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Skew binomial heap
Invented byGerth Stølting Brodal and Chris Okasaki
Time complexity in big O notation
Operation Average Worst case
Insert Θ(1) Θ(1)
Find-min Θ(1)
Delete-min O(log n)
Decrease-key O(log n)
Merge O(log n)
Space complexity

In computer science, a skew binomial heap (or skew binomial queue) is a variant of the binomial heap that supports constant-time insertion operations in the worst case, rather than the logarithmic worst case and constant amortized time of ordinary binomial heaps. Just as binomial heaps are based on the binary number system, skew binary heaps are based on the skew binary number system.[1]


Binomial heaps suffer from worst case logarithmic complexity for insertion, because a carry operation may cascade, analagous to binary addition. Skew binomial heaps are based on the skew binary number system, where the th digit (zero-indexed) represents , instead of . Digits are either 0 or 1, except the lowest non-zero digit, which may be 2. An advantage of this system is that at most one carry operation is needed. For example, 60 is represented as 11200 in skew binary (31 + 15 + 7 + 7), and adding 1 produces 12000 (31 + 15 + 15). Since the next higher digit is guaranteed not to be 2, a carry is performed at most once.


A skew binomial heap is a list of skew binomial trees, which are defined inductively:

  • A skew binomial tree of rank 0 is a singleton node.
  • A skew binomial tree of rank can be constructed in three ways.
    • A simple link links two rank trees, making one the leftmost child of the other,
    • A type A skew link links three trees, where two rank trees become the children of a rank 0 tree,
    • A type B skew link links three trees, where a rank 0 tree and rank tree become the leftmost children of another rank tree.

When performing any link, the tree with the smallest key always becomes the root. The following OCaml code demonstrates the linking operations:

type 'a heap = 'a tree list
 and 'a tree = Tree of 'a * int * 'a tree list
let rank (Tree (_, r, _)) = r

let simple_link (Tree (k1, r, c1) as t1) (Tree (k2, r, c2) as t2) =
  if k1 <= k2 then
    Tree (k1, r + 1, t2 :: c1)
    Tree (k2, r + 1, t1 :: c2)
let skew_link k1 (Tree (k2, r, c2) as t2) (Tree (k3, r, c3) as t3) =
  if k1 <= k2 && k1 <= k3 then (* type A *)
    Tree (k1, r + 1, [t2; t3])
  else                         (* type B *)
    let t1 = Tree (k1, 0, []) in
    if k2 <= k3 then
      Tree (k2, r + 1, t1 :: t3 :: c2)
      Tree (k3, r + 1, t1 :: t2 :: c3)

Additionally, we impose the invariant that there may be only one tree of each rank, except the lowest rank which may have up to two.

From these properties, it can be deduced that a skew binomial tree of rank has between and children. The number of nodes in a skew binomial tree of rank is also bounded by . Since trees of the same rank may have different numbers of nodes, there may be more than one way to distribute the ranks in the heap.

These constructions may be seen as a generalisation of binary trees and binomial trees. A skew binomial tree constructed using only simple links is an ordinary binomial tree, and using only type A skew links results in a perfectly balanced binary tree.



Search the list of roots to find the node containing the minimum key. This takes time.

In an imperative setting, one can maintain a pointer to the root containing the minimum key, allowing access in time. This pointer must be updated after every operation, adding only a constant overhead in time complexity.

In a functional setting without random access to nodes, one can instead represent the heap as a single tree with skew binomial trees as its children. The root of this tree is the minimum of the heap, allowing access. Note that this tree will not necessarily be a skew binomial tree itself. The other operations must be modified to deal with this single tree. This concept of a global root is used in the optimizations described below, albeit slightly differently.


To merge two skew binomial heaps together, first eliminate any duplicate rank trees in each heap by performing simple links. Then, merge the heaps in the same fashion as ordinary binomial heaps, which is similar to binary addition. Trees with the same ranks are linked with a simple link, and a 'carry' tree is passed upwards if necessary. Because the rank of trees in each heap is now unique, at most three trees of the same rank are be considered, which is sufficient to establish a bound.

let rec unique = function
  | t1 :: t2 :: ts when rank t1 = rank t2 ->
    unique (simple_link t1 t2 :: ts)
  | ts -> ts

let rec merge_uniq h1 h2 = match h1, h2 with
  | h1, [] -> h1
  | [], h2 -> h2
  | t1 :: ts1, t2 :: ts2 ->
    if rank t1 < rank t2 then
      t1 :: merge_uniq ts1 h2
    else if rank t1 > rank t2 then
      t2 :: merge_uniq h1 ts2
      unique (simple_link t1 t2 :: merge_uniq ts1 ts2)
let merge h1 h2 = merge_uniq (unique h1) (unique h2)


Create a skew binomial tree of rank 0 (a singleton node), containing the key to be inserted. The smallest two trees in the heap are then considered:

  • If they are both of rank , then perform a skew link with these two trees and the singleton node. The resulting tree is of rank . Since there can only have been at most one rank tree in the original heap, the invariant is preserved.
  • If they are of different ranks, simply add the rank 0 tree to the front of the list of roots. Since the list of roots did not have duplicate rank trees before, the invariant is not violated, as there will be at most two rank 0 trees after.

As up to one link is performed, this operation executes in worst case time, improving on the binomial heap which relies on amortized analysis for its bound, with a worst case of .

let insert k = function
  | t2 :: t3 :: ts when rank t2 = rank t3 -> skew_link k t2 t3 :: ts
  | ts -> Tree (k, 0, []) :: ts


Find and discard the node containing the minimum key. Divide its children into two groups, those with rank 0, and those with rank > 0. Note that there may be more than two children with rank 0, due to skew links. The children whose rank > 0 form a valid skew binomial heap, as they are already ordered, and have no duplicates. Merging these children into the heap takes time. Afterwards, reinsert each of the rank 0 children into the heap at a cost of each. The total time required is .


This operation is unchanged from binomial heaps. Decreasing the key of a node may cause it to be smaller than its parent. Repeatedly exchange it with its parent until the minimum-heap property is satisfied, at a cost of time complexity. This operation requires a pointer to the node containing the key in question, and easiest done in an imperative setting.


Brodal and Okasaki showed how the find-min and merge operations can be reduced to by applying the 'bootstrapping' technique of Buchsbaum and Tarjan.[2]

Let the type of a primitive skew binomial heap containing elements of type be . Instead of the forest of trees representation described above, we mainintain a single tree with a global root as its minimum.

Let the type of a rooted skew binomial heap be


that is, a pair containing an element of type and a primitive heap of rooted heaps.

Finally, we define the type of a bootstrapped heap as

which permits empty heaps.

The operations on this bootstrapped heap are redefined accordingly. In the following OCaml code, let the prime symbol denote operations for bootstrapped heaps.

type 'a bootstrapped =
  | Empty
  | Root of 'a rooted

let find_min' (Root (k, h)) = k

let merge' bh1 bh2 = match bh1, bh2 with
  | _, Empty -> bh1
  | Empty, _ -> bh2
  | Root (k1, h1), Root (k2, h2) ->
    if k1 <= k2 then
      Root (k1, insert bh2 h1)
      Root (k2, insert bh1 h2)

let insert' k h = merge' (Root(k, [])) h

let delete_min' (Root (x, h)) =
  let Root (y, h1) = find_min h in
  let h2 = delete_min h in
  Root (y, merge h1 h2)

The new merge operation uses only insert operations on primitive heaps, thus, it executes in time. This technique can be applied to any priority queue with constant time insertion, and logarithmic merging.

Summary of running times[edit]

Here are time complexities[3] of various heap data structures. Function names assume a min-heap. For the meaning of "O(f)" and "Θ(f)" see Big O notation.

Operation find-min delete-min insert decrease-key meld
Binary[3] Θ(1) Θ(log n) O(log n) O(log n) Θ(n)
Leftist Θ(1) Θ(log n) Θ(log n) O(log n) Θ(log n)
Binomial[3][4] Θ(1) Θ(log n) Θ(1)[a] Θ(log n) O(log n)
Skew binomial[5] Θ(1) Θ(log n) Θ(1) Θ(log n) O(log n)[b]
Pairing[6] Θ(1) O(log n)[a] Θ(1) o(log n)[a][c] Θ(1)
Rank-pairing[9] Θ(1) O(log n)[a] Θ(1) Θ(1)[a] Θ(1)
Fibonacci[3][10] Θ(1) O(log n)[a] Θ(1) Θ(1)[a] Θ(1)
Strict Fibonacci[11] Θ(1) O(log n) Θ(1) Θ(1) Θ(1)
Brodal[12][d] Θ(1) O(log n) Θ(1) Θ(1) Θ(1)
2–3 heap[14] O(log n) O(log n)[a] O(log n)[a] Θ(1) ?
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Amortized time.
  2. ^ Brodal and Okasaki describe a technique to reduce the worst-case complexity of meld to Θ(1); this technique applies to any heap datastructure that has insert in Θ(1) and find-min, delete-min, meld in O(log n).
  3. ^ Lower bound of [7] upper bound of [8]
  4. ^ Brodal and Okasaki later describe a persistent variant with the same bounds except for decrease-key, which is not supported. Heaps with n elements can be constructed bottom-up in O(n).[13]


  1. ^ Brodal, Gerth Stølting; Okasaki, Chris (November 1996), "Optimal purely functional priority queues", Journal of Functional Programming, 6 (6): 839–857, doi:10.1017/s095679680000201x
  2. ^ Buchsbaum, A.L.; Tarjan, R.E. (May 1995). "Confluently Persistent Deques via Data-Structural Bootstrapping". Journal of Algorithms. 18 (3): 513–547. doi:10.1006/jagm.1995.1020. ISSN 0196-6774.
  3. ^ a b c d Cormen, Thomas H.; Leiserson, Charles E.; Rivest, Ronald L. (1990). Introduction to Algorithms (1st ed.). MIT Press and McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-262-03141-8.
  4. ^ "Binomial Heap | Brilliant Math & Science Wiki". Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  5. ^ Brodal, Gerth Stølting; Okasaki, Chris (November 1996), "Optimal purely functional priority queues", Journal of Functional Programming, 6 (6): 839–857, doi:10.1017/s095679680000201x
  6. ^ Iacono, John (2000), "Improved upper bounds for pairing heaps", Proc. 7th Scandinavian Workshop on Algorithm Theory (PDF), Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 1851, Springer-Verlag, pp. 63–77, arXiv:1110.4428, CiteSeerX, doi:10.1007/3-540-44985-X_5, ISBN 3-540-67690-2
  7. ^ Fredman, Michael Lawrence (July 1999). "On the Efficiency of Pairing Heaps and Related Data Structures" (PDF). Journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. 46 (4): 473–501. doi:10.1145/320211.320214.
  8. ^ Pettie, Seth (2005). Towards a Final Analysis of Pairing Heaps (PDF). FOCS '05 Proceedings of the 46th Annual IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science. pp. 174–183. CiteSeerX doi:10.1109/SFCS.2005.75. ISBN 0-7695-2468-0.
  9. ^ Haeupler, Bernhard; Sen, Siddhartha; Tarjan, Robert E. (November 2011). "Rank-pairing heaps" (PDF). SIAM J. Computing. 40 (6): 1463–1485. doi:10.1137/100785351.
  10. ^ Fredman, Michael Lawrence; Tarjan, Robert E. (July 1987). "Fibonacci heaps and their uses in improved network optimization algorithms" (PDF). Journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. 34 (3): 596–615. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/28869.28874.
  11. ^ Brodal, Gerth Stølting; Lagogiannis, George; Tarjan, Robert E. (2012). Strict Fibonacci heaps (PDF). Proceedings of the 44th symposium on Theory of Computing - STOC '12. pp. 1177–1184. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/2213977.2214082. ISBN 978-1-4503-1245-5.
  12. ^ Brodal, Gerth S. (1996), "Worst-Case Efficient Priority Queues" (PDF), Proc. 7th Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, pp. 52–58
  13. ^ Goodrich, Michael T.; Tamassia, Roberto (2004). "7.3.6. Bottom-Up Heap Construction". Data Structures and Algorithms in Java (3rd ed.). pp. 338–341. ISBN 0-471-46983-1.
  14. ^ Takaoka, Tadao (1999), Theory of 2–3 Heaps (PDF), p. 12