Thue number

Last updated
The Thue number of the 5-cycle is four. Thue-number.svg
The Thue number of the 5-cycle is four.

In the mathematical area of graph theory, the Thue number of a graph is a variation of the chromatic index, defined by Alon et al. (2002) and named after mathematician Axel Thue, who studied the squarefree words used to define this number.


Alon et al. define a nonrepetitive coloring of a graph to be an assignment of colors to the edges of the graph, such that there does not exist any even-length simple path in the graph in which the colors of the edges in the first half of the path form the same sequence as the colors of the edges in the second half of the path. The Thue number of a graph is the minimum number of colors needed in any nonrepetitive coloring. [1]

Variations on this concept involving vertex colorings or more general walks on a graph have been studied by several authors including Barát and Varjú, Barát and Wood (2005), Brešar and Klavžar (2004), and Kündgen and Pelsmajer.


Consider a pentagon, that is, a cycle of five vertices. If we color the edges with two colors, some two adjacent edges will have the same color x; the path formed by those two edges will have the repetitive color sequence xx. If we color the edges with three colors, one of the three colors will be used only once; the path of four edges formed by the other two colors will either have two consecutive edges or will form the repetitive color sequence xyxy. However, with four colors it is not difficult to avoid all repetitions. Therefore, the Thue number of C5 is four. [1]


Alon et al. use the Lovász local lemma to prove that the Thue number of any graph is at most quadratic in its maximum degree; they provide an example showing that for some graphs this quadratic dependence is necessary. In addition they show that the Thue number of a path of four or more vertices is exactly three, that the Thue number of any cycle is at most four, and that the Thue number of the Petersen graph is exactly five. [1]

The known cycles with Thue number four are C5, C7, C9, C10, C14, and C17. Alon et al. conjecture that the Thue number of any larger cycle is three; they verified computationally that the cycles listed above are the only ones of length ≤ 2001 with Thue number four. Currie resolved this in a 2002 paper, showing that all cycles with 18 or more vertices have Thue number 3.

Computational complexity

Testing whether a coloring has a repetitive path is in NP, so testing whether a coloring is nonrepetitive is in co-NP, and Manin showed that it is co-NP-complete. The problem of finding such a coloring belongs to in the polynomial hierarchy, and again Manin showed that it is complete for this level.Manin (2007)

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bipartite graph</span> Graph divided into two independent sets

In the mathematical field of graph theory, a bipartite graph is a graph whose vertices can be divided into two disjoint and independent sets and , that is, every edge connects a vertex in to one in . Vertex sets and are usually called the parts of the graph. Equivalently, a bipartite graph is a graph that does not contain any odd-length cycles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Graph coloring</span> Methodic assignment of colors to elements of a graph

In graph theory, graph coloring is a special case of graph labeling; it is an assignment of labels traditionally called "colors" to elements of a graph subject to certain constraints. In its simplest form, it is a way of coloring the vertices of a graph such that no two adjacent vertices are of the same color; this is called a vertex coloring. Similarly, an edge coloring assigns a color to each edge so that no two adjacent edges are of the same color, and a face coloring of a planar graph assigns a color to each face or region so that no two faces that share a boundary have the same color.

In graph theory, a uniquely colorable graph is a k-chromatic graph that has only one possible (proper) k-coloring up to permutation of the colors. Equivalently, there is only one way to partition its vertices into k independent sets and there is no way to partition them into k − 1 independent sets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edge coloring</span> Problem of coloring a graphs edges such that meeting edges do not match

In graph theory, a proper edge coloring of a graph is an assignment of "colors" to the edges of the graph so that no two incident edges have the same color. For example, the figure to the right shows an edge coloring of a graph by the colors red, blue, and green. Edge colorings are one of several different types of graph coloring. The edge-coloring problem asks whether it is possible to color the edges of a given graph using at most k different colors, for a given value of k, or with the fewest possible colors. The minimum required number of colors for the edges of a given graph is called the chromatic index of the graph. For example, the edges of the graph in the illustration can be colored by three colors but cannot be colored by two colors, so the graph shown has chromatic index three.

In graph theory, a branch of mathematics, list coloring is a type of graph coloring where each vertex can be restricted to a list of allowed colors. It was first studied in the 1970s in independent papers by Vizing and by Erdős, Rubin, and Taylor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exact coloring</span>

In graph theory, an exact coloring is a (proper) vertex coloring in which every pair of colors appears on exactly one pair of adjacent vertices. That is, it is a partition of the vertices of the graph into disjoint independent sets such that, for each pair of distinct independent sets in the partition, there is exactly one edge with endpoints in each set.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snark (graph theory)</span> 3-regular graph with no 3-edge-coloring

In the mathematical field of graph theory, a snark is an undirected graph with exactly three edges per vertex whose edges cannot be colored with only three colors. In order to avoid trivial cases, snarks are often restricted to have additional requirements on their connectivity and on the length of their cycles. Infinitely many snarks exist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Circle graph</span> Intersection graph of a chord diagram

In graph theory, a circle graph is the intersection graph of a chord diagram. That is, it is an undirected graph whose vertices can be associated with a finite system of chords of a circle such that two vertices are adjacent if and only if the corresponding chords cross each other.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grundy number</span> Maximum number of colors obtainable by a greedy graph coloring algorithm

In graph theory, the Grundy number or Grundy chromatic number of an undirected graph is the maximum number of colors that can be used by a greedy coloring strategy that considers the vertices of the graph in sequence and assigns each vertex its first available color, using a vertex ordering chosen to use as many colors as possible. Grundy numbers are named after P. M. Grundy, who studied an analogous concept for directed graphs in 1939. The undirected version was introduced by Christen & Selkow (1979).

In graph theory, Vizing's theorem states that every simple undirected graph may be edge colored using a number of colors that is at most one larger than the maximum degree Δ of the graph. At least Δ colors are always necessary, so the undirected graphs may be partitioned into two classes: "class one" graphs for which Δ colors suffice, and "class two" graphs for which Δ + 1 colors are necessary. A more general version of Vizing's theorem states that every undirected multigraph without loops can be colored with at most Δ+µ colors, where µ is the multiplicity of the multigraph. The theorem is named for Vadim G. Vizing who published it in 1964.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Triangle-free graph</span> Graph without triples of adjacent vertices

In the mathematical area of graph theory, a triangle-free graph is an undirected graph in which no three vertices form a triangle of edges. Triangle-free graphs may be equivalently defined as graphs with clique number ≤ 2, graphs with girth ≥ 4, graphs with no induced 3-cycle, or locally independent graphs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hedetniemi's conjecture</span> Conjecture in graph theory

In graph theory, Hedetniemi's conjecture, formulated by Stephen T. Hedetniemi in 1966, concerns the connection between graph coloring and the tensor product of graphs. This conjecture states that

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Median graph</span> Graph with a median for each three vertices

In graph theory, a division of mathematics, a median graph is an undirected graph in which every three vertices a, b, and c have a unique median: a vertex m(a,b,c) that belongs to shortest paths between each pair of a, b, and c.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tietze's graph</span> Undirected cubic graph with 12 vertices and 18 edges

In the mathematical field of graph theory, Tietze's graph is an undirected cubic graph with 12 vertices and 18 edges. It is named after Heinrich Franz Friedrich Tietze, who showed in 1910 that the Möbius strip can be subdivided into six regions that all touch each other – three along the boundary of the strip and three along its center line – and therefore that graphs that are embedded onto the Möbius strip may require six colors. The boundary segments of the regions of Tietze's subdivision form an embedding of Tietze's graph.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Star coloring</span> Graph coloring in which every 4-vertex path uses ≥3 colors

In the mathematical field of graph theory, a star coloring of a graph G is a (proper) vertex coloring in which every path on four vertices uses at least three distinct colors. Equivalently, in a star coloring, the induced subgraphs formed by the vertices of any two colors has connected components that are star graphs. Star coloring has been introduced by Grünbaum (1973). The star chromatic number of G is the fewest colors needed to star color G.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brooks' theorem</span>

In graph theory, Brooks' theorem states a relationship between the maximum degree of a graph and its chromatic number. According to the theorem, in a connected graph in which every vertex has at most Δ neighbors, the vertices can be colored with only Δ colors, except for two cases, complete graphs and cycle graphs of odd length, which require Δ + 1 colors.

In graph theory, an area of mathematics, an equitable coloring is an assignment of colors to the vertices of an undirected graph, in such a way that

In graph theory, a branch of mathematics, the Hajós construction is an operation on graphs named after György Hajós (1961) that may be used to construct any critical graph or any graph whose chromatic number is at least some given threshold.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Graph power</span> Graph operation: linking all pairs of nodes of distance ≤ k

In graph theory, a branch of mathematics, the kth powerGk of an undirected graph G is another graph that has the same set of vertices, but in which two vertices are adjacent when their distance in G is at most k. Powers of graphs are referred to using terminology similar to that of exponentiation of numbers: G2 is called the square of G, G3 is called the cube of G, etc.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Distinguishing coloring</span> Assignment of colors to graph vertices that destroys all symmetries

In graph theory, a distinguishing coloring or distinguishing labeling of a graph is an assignment of colors or labels to the vertices of the graph that destroys all of the nontrivial symmetries of the graph. The coloring does not need to be a proper coloring: adjacent vertices are allowed to be given the same color. For the colored graph, there should not exist any one-to-one mapping of the vertices to themselves that preserves both adjacency and coloring. The minimum number of colors in a distinguishing coloring is called the distinguishing number of the graph.


  1. 1 2 3 Alon et al. (2002).