Shortest unique prefix

Shortest unique prefix

December 10, 2023

Problem #

Given a list of words, return the shortest unique prefix of each word. For example, given the list:


Return the list:


Solution #

To solve this problem, we can use a trie, which is a tree-like data structure used for storing a dynamic set of strings where the keys are usually strings. Each node of the trie marks the end of a particular word and also contains links to nodes representing the next possible character in a word. Here’s how we can use a trie for this problem:

  1. Build the Trie: Insert each word from the list into the trie. While inserting, keep a count of how many words pass through each node.

  2. Find Shortest Unique Prefixes: For each word, travel down the trie until you reach a node where the count is 1 (which means no other word shares that prefix) or the end of the word. The path to this node forms the shortest unique prefix for that word.

class TrieNode:
    def __init__(self):
        self.children = {}
        self.count = 0

class Trie:
    def __init__(self):
        self.root = TrieNode()

    def insert(self, word):
        node = self.root
        for char in word:
            if char not in node.children:
                node.children[char] = TrieNode()
            node = node.children[char]
            node.count += 1

    def shortest_unique_prefix(self, word):
        prefix = ''
        node = self.root
        for char in word:
            if node.count == 1:
            prefix += char
            node = node.children[char]
        return prefix

def shortest_unique_prefixes(words):
    trie = Trie()
    for word in words:
    return [trie.shortest_unique_prefix(word) for word in words]

# Example usage:
words = ["dog", "cat", "apple", "apricot", "fish"]
print(shortest_unique_prefixes(words))  # Output: ['d', 'c', 'app', 'apr', 'f']

This code constructs a trie from the list of words, and then for each word, it finds the shortest prefix that is unique to that word within the trie.