# (closed) walk / trek / trail / path

Graph theory  terminology is notoriously variable so the following definitions should be used with caution. In books, most authors define their usage at the beginning.

The walk, etc. is said to run from $\nu_{0}$ to $\nu_{s}$, to run between them, to connect them etc. The term trek was introduced by Cameron [Cam94] who notes the lexicographic mnemonic

 $\hbox{\em paths\/}\;\subset\;\hbox{\em trails\/}\;\subset\;\hbox{\em treks\/}% \;\subset\;\hbox{\em walks\/}$

The other terms are fairly widespread, cf. [Wil02], but beware: many authors call walks paths, and some then call paths chains. And when edges are called arcs, a trek of length $s$ sometimes goes by the name $s$-arc.

Note that for the purpose of defining connectivity any of these types of wanderings can be used; if a walk exists between vertices $\mu$ and $\nu$ then there also exists a path between them. And here we must allow $s=0$ to make “are connected   by a path” an equivalence relation  on vertices (in order to define connected components   as its equivalence classes  ).

• A closed walk aka circuit of length $s\neq 0$ is a walk where $\nu_{0}=\nu_{s}$,

• a closed trek is a trek that’s closed in the same way, and

• a closed trail likewise;

• a closed path aka (elementary) cycle is like a path (except that we only demand that $\nu_{i}$ for $0\leqslant i are distinct) and again closed ($\nu_{s}$ again coincides with $\nu_{0}$).

Beware: cycles are often called circuits [Cam94]; the distinction between circuits and cycles here follows Wilson [Wil02]. These closed wanderings are often called after their length: $s$-circuits, $s$-cycles.

The case $s=0$ is excluded from these definitions; $1$-cycles are loops so imply a pseudograph; $2$-cycles are double edges implying multigraphs; so $3$ is the minimum cycle length in a proper graph.

Note also that in trivalent aka cubic graphs  a closed trail is automatically a closed path: it is impossible to visit a vertex (in via edge $a$, out via edge $b$ say) and visit it again (in via $c$, out via $d$) without also revisiting an edge, because there are only three edges at each vertex.

• An open walk, open trek, open trail is one that isn’t closed.

• An open path (sometimes open chain) is just a path as defined above (because a closed path isn’t actually a path). Still, the term is useful when you want to emphasise the contrast with a closed path.

## References

• 1
• Cam94 Peter J. Cameron, Combinatorics: topics, techniques, algorithms
Camb. Univ. Pr. 1994, ISBN  0 521 45761 0,
http://www.maths.qmul.ac.uk/ pjc/comb/http://www.maths.qmul.ac.uk/ pjc/comb/ (solutions, errata &c.)
• Wil02 Robert A. Wilson, Graphs, Colourings and the Four-colour Theorem,
Oxford Univ. Pr. 2002, ISBN  0 19 851062 4 (pbk),
http://www.maths.qmul.ac.uk/ raw/graph.htmlhttp://www.maths.qmul.ac.uk/ raw/graph.html (errata &c.)
 Title (closed) walk / trek / trail / path Canonical name closedWalkTrekTrailPath Date of creation 2013-03-22 15:09:50 Last modified on 2013-03-22 15:09:50 Owner marijke (8873) Last modified by marijke (8873) Numerical id 9 Author marijke (8873) Entry type Definition Classification msc 05C38 Related topic Path2 Related topic ConnectedGraph Related topic KConnectedGraph Related topic Diameter3 Defines walk Defines trek Defines trail Defines path Defines chain Defines circuit Defines cycle Defines closed walk Defines closed trek Defines closed trail Defines closed path Defines closed chain Defines open walk Defines open trek Defines open trail Defines open path Defines open chain Defines ${s}$-arc Defines ${s}$-cycle Defines elementary cycle Defines ${s}$-circuit