Implementing Trie datastructure in C

In computer science, a trie, or prefix tree, is an ordered tree data structure that is used to store an associative array where the keys are usually strings. Unlike a binary search tree, no node in the tree stores the key associated with that node; instead, its position in the tree defines the key it is associated with. All the descendants of a node have a common prefix of the string associated with that node, and the root is associated with the empty string. Values are normally not associated with every node, only with leaves and some inner nodes that correspond to keys of interest.

The term trie comes from retrieval.Trie data structure is a tree with each node consisting of one letter as data and pointer to the next node. It uses Finite Deterministic automation. That means, it uses state to state transition.

This is a trie for keys “A”, “to”, “tea”, “ted”, “ten”, “i”, “in”, and “inn”. When we need to do auto complete for the starting characters, “te”, we need to get output tea, ted and ten. Instead of checking regular expression match for all the words in the database, it will make use of transitions. First character is t. Then in the root element, it will make transition for ‘t’ so that it will reach the node with data ‘t’, then at node ‘t’, it will make transition for next node ‘e’. At that point, we need to follow all paths from node ‘e’ to leaf nodes so that we can get the paths t->e->a, t->e->d and t->e->n. This is the basic algorithm behind implementing an efficient auto complete.

I implemented it using dfs(Depth First Search). DFS is an uninformed search that progresses by expanding the first child node of the search tree that appears and thus going deeper and deeper until a goal node is found, or until it hits a node that has no children. Then the search backtracks, returning to the most recent node it hasn’t finished exploring. In a non-recursive implementation, all freshly expanded nodes are added to a stack for exploration.

The complete code of this program is available in


2 thoughts on “Implementing Trie datastructure in C

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