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What is Tree Data Structure - Basic Terminologies Related to Trees

Tags: node tree nodes

A Tree is a non-linear data structure. It is a set of nodes connected by edges. Each Node is a data structure consisting of a value together with a list of nodes (the "children"). In a tree, no node is duplicated. In a linked list, each node has a link which points to next node (as well as points to previous node in case of doubly linked list). In a tree structure, however, each node may point to several other nodes.

The tree structure is used to store data in a hierarchical manner. Generally, this data structure is used to organize the data so that items of information are related by branches. An example of a tree is a company’s organizational chart.

A tree starts with a root node and extends into several nodes. The root node is the first node in a tree and it may contain several links. Each link in the root node refers to a child. Thus, a tree is very powerful data structure that can be used in various applications.

Read: Queue in C++ Programming

In computer applications, tree is a hierarchical collection of finite elements. Each element is called a node. A typical tree is shown in the following diagram:

A typical tree data structure diagram

Basic Terminologies Related to Trees

Following are the basic terminologies, with their brief description.

Root Node

The top most node in the tree that has no parent node is called the root node. It represents the beginning of the tree. Element A in the above figure is the root node of the tree.

Parent Node

A node that has one child or more children is called parent node. It is also known as ancestor node, or superior. It is always above its child nodes. The node A in the above figure is the root. It is also the parent node of nodes B, C, and D. Similarly, node B is parent node of nodes E and F, node C is parent node of node G, node D is parent node of node H and so on.

Child Node

The node that is directly connected to a parent node is called the child node. In the above diagram, nodes B, C, and D are the Child nodes of A.


The child node of 'the root" node that has its own child nodes is called the subtree. The nodes B, C, D, E, G and H in the above diagram are subtrees and are roots of their subtrees.

Terminal Node

The node having no successor or child is called the terminal node. It is also called leaf or leaf node. The nodes, F, J, M, N, and L in the above diagram are terminal nodes or leaves.

Level of a Node

The root of the tree has level 0 and level of any other node, in the tree is one more than the level of its parent. If a node is at level ‘i’ then its children are at level ‘i+1’. For example in the tree of the above diagram, the nodes I, J, K, and L are at level 3 and M,& N are at level 4.


The nodes having a common parent are called siblings. These are children of the same parent node. The nodes E and F in the above diagram are siblings as they are children of node B.

Depth of Node

Each node has a unique path connecting it tothe root. The total number of nodes between the path of a specific node and the root is called depth of node. The depth of root node is zero.

Height of Tree

The maximum depth among all of the nodes of a tree is called the height of the tree. The depth of each node M & N in the above diagram is 4. It is the maximum height of any node in the tree.

Empty Tree

A tree that has no node is called empty tree. Its height is 1.

Degree of Node

The number of children of a node is called degree of the node. In the above diagram, the degree of the node B is one and the degree of node K is two.

Singleton Tree

The tree whose root is its only node is called singleton tree.

General Tree

A tree in which a node may have no child, one child or any number of children is called general tree.

Full Tree

A tree whose all-internal nodes have the same degree and all its terminals are at the same level is called full tree. The tree in the following image is an example of a full tree.
Example of data structure full tree

Read: Important File Operation Modes in C++

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What is Tree Data Structure - Basic Terminologies Related to Trees


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