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  1. Getting Started with Algorithm
    What is an Algorithm?
  2. Characteristics of Algorithm
    1 Topic
  3. Analysis Framework
  4. Performance Analysis
    3 Topics
  5. Mathematical Analysis
    2 Topics
  6. Sorting Algorithm
    Sorting Algorithm
    10 Topics
  7. Searching Algorithm
    6 Topics
  8. Fundamental of Data Structures
  9. Queues
  10. Graphs
  11. Trees
  12. Sets
  13. Dictionaries
  14. Divide and Conquer
    General Method
  15. Binary Search
  16. Recurrence Equation for Divide and Conquer
  17. Finding the Maximum and Minimum
  18. Merge Sort
  19. Quick Sort
  20. Stassen’s Matrix Multiplication
  21. Advantages and Disadvantages of Divide and Conquer
  22. Decrease and Conquer
    Insertion Sort
  23. Topological Sort
  24. Greedy Method
    General Method
  25. Coin Change Problem
  26. Knapsack Problem
  27. Job Sequencing with Deadlines
  28. Minimum Cost Spanning Trees
    2 Topics
  29. Single Source Shortest Paths
    1 Topic
  30. Optimal Tree Problem
    1 Topic
  31. Transform and Conquer Approach
    1 Topic
  32. Dynamic Programming
    General Method with Examples
  33. Multistage Graphs
  34. Transitive Closure
    1 Topic
  35. All Pairs Shortest Paths
    6 Topics
  36. Backtracking
    General Method
  37. N-Queens Problem
  38. Sum of Subsets problem
  39. Graph Coloring
  40. Hamiltonian Cycles
  41. Branch and Bound
    2 Topics
  42. 0/1 Knapsack problem
    2 Topics
  43. NP-Complete and NP-Hard Problems
    1 Topic
Lesson 35, Topic 4
In Progress

Bellman-Ford Algorithm

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Bellman Ford algorithm helps us find the shortest path from a vertex to all other vertices of a weighted graph.

It is similar to Dijkstra’s algorithm but it can work with graphs in which edges can have negative weights.

Why would one ever have edges with negative weights in real life?

Negative weight edges might seem useless at first but they can explain a lot of phenomena like cashflow, the heat released/absorbed in a chemical reaction, etc.

For instance, if there are different ways to reach from one chemical A to another chemical B, each method will have sub-reactions involving both heat dissipation and absorption.

If we want to find the set of reactions where minimum energy is required, then we will need to be able to factor in the heat absorption as negative weights and heat dissipation as positive weights.


Following are the detailed steps.

Input: Graph and a source vertex src
Output: Shortest distance to all vertices from src. If there is a negative weight cycle, then shortest distances are not calculated, negative weight cycle is reported.

1) This step initializes distances from the source to all vertices as infinite and distance to the source itself as 0. Create an array dist[] of size |V| with all values as infinite except dist[src] where src is source vertex.

2) This step calculates shortest distances. Do following |V|-1 times where |V| is the number of vertices in given graph.
…..a) Do following for each edge u-v
………………If dist[v] > dist[u] + weight of edge uv, then update dist[v]
………………….dist[v] = dist[u] + weight of edge uv

3) This step reports if there is a negative weight cycle in graph. Do following for each edge u-v
……If dist[v] > dist[u] + weight of edge uv, then “Graph contains negative weight cycle”
The idea of step 3 is, step 2 guarantees the shortest distances if the graph doesn’t contain a negative weight cycle. If we iterate through all edges one more time and get a shorter path for any vertex, then there is a negative weight cycle

Description of the algorithm

Let us assume that the graph contains no negative weight cycle. The case of presence of a negative weight cycle will be discussed below in a separate section.

We will create an array of distances d[0…n−1], which after execution of the algorithm will contain the answer to the problem. In the beginning we fill it as follows: d[v]=0, and all other elements d[] equal to infinity ∞.

The algorithm consists of several phases. Each phase scans through all edges of the graph, and the algorithm tries to produce relaxation along each edge (a,b) having weight cc. Relaxation along the edges is an attempt to improve the value d[b] using value d[a]+c. In fact, it means that we are trying to improve the answer for this vertex using edge (a,b)(a,b) and current response for vertex a.

It is claimed that n−1 phases of the algorithm are sufficient to correctly calculate the lengths of all shortest paths in the graph (again, we believe that the cycles of negative weight do not exist). For unreachable vertices the distance d[] will remain equal to infinity ∞.


Unlike many other graph algorithms, for Bellman-Ford algorithm, it is more convenient to represent the graph using a single list of all edges (instead of nn lists of edges – edges from each vertex). We start the implementation with a structure edgeedge for representing the edges. The input to the algorithm are numbers nn, mm, list ee of edges and the starting vertex vv. All the vertices are numbered 00 to n−1n−1.

The simplest implementation

The constant INFINF denotes the number “infinity” — it should be selected in such a way that it is greater than all possible path lengths.

struct edge
    int a, b, cost;

int n, m, v;
vector<edge> e;
const int INF = 1000000000;

void solve()
    vector<int> d (n, INF);
    d[v] = 0;
    for (int i=0; i<n-1; ++i)
        for (int j=0; j<m; ++j)
            if (d[e[j].a] < INF)
                d[e[j].b] = min (d[e[j].b], d[e[j].a] + e[j].cost);
    // display d, for example, on the screen

The check if (d[e[j].a] < INF) is needed only if the graph contains negative weight edges: no such verification would result in relaxation from the vertices to which paths have not yet found, and incorrect distance, of the type ∞−1∞−1, ∞−2∞−2 etc. would appear.

// Bellman Ford Algorithm in C

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

#define INFINITY 99999

//struct for the edges of the graph
struct Edge {
  int u;  //start vertex of the edge
  int v;  //end vertex of the edge
  int w;  //weight of the edge (u,v)

//Graph - it consists of edges
struct Graph {
  int V;        //total number of vertices in the graph
  int E;        //total number of edges in the graph
  struct Edge *edge;  //array of edges

void bellmanford(struct Graph *g, int source);
void display(int arr[], int size);

int main(void) {
  //create graph
  struct Graph *g = (struct Graph *)malloc(sizeof(struct Graph));
  g->V = 4;  //total vertices
  g->E = 5;  //total edges

  //array of edges for graph
  g->edge = (struct Edge *)malloc(g->E * sizeof(struct Edge));

  //------- adding the edges of the graph
		edge(u, v)
		where 	u = start vertex of the edge (u,v)
				v = end vertex of the edge (u,v)
		w is the weight of the edge (u,v)

  //edge 0 --> 1
  g->edge[0].u = 0;
  g->edge[0].v = 1;
  g->edge[0].w = 5;

  //edge 0 --> 2
  g->edge[1].u = 0;
  g->edge[1].v = 2;
  g->edge[1].w = 4;

  //edge 1 --> 3
  g->edge[2].u = 1;
  g->edge[2].v = 3;
  g->edge[2].w = 3;

  //edge 2 --> 1
  g->edge[3].u = 2;
  g->edge[3].v = 1;
  g->edge[3].w = 6;

  //edge 3 --> 2
  g->edge[4].u = 3;
  g->edge[4].v = 2;
  g->edge[4].w = 2;

  bellmanford(g, 0);  //0 is the source vertex

  return 0;

void bellmanford(struct Graph *g, int source) {
  int i, j, u, v, w;

  //total vertex in the graph g
  int tV = g->V;

  //total edge in the graph g
  int tE = g->E;

  //distance array
  //size equal to the number of vertices of the graph g
  int d[tV];

  //predecessor array
  //size equal to the number of vertices of the graph g
  int p[tV];

  //step 1: fill the distance array and predecessor array
  for (i = 0; i < tV; i++) {
    d[i] = INFINITY;
    p[i] = 0;

  //mark the source vertex
  d[source] = 0;

  //step 2: relax edges |V| - 1 times
  for (i = 1; i <= tV - 1; i++) {
    for (j = 0; j < tE; j++) {
      //get the edge data
      u = g->edge[j].u;
      v = g->edge[j].v;
      w = g->edge[j].w;

      if (d[u] != INFINITY && d[v] > d[u] + w) {
        d[v] = d[u] + w;
        p[v] = u;

  //step 3: detect negative cycle
  //if value changes then we have a negative cycle in the graph
  //and we cannot find the shortest distances
  for (i = 0; i < tE; i++) {
    u = g->edge[i].u;
    v = g->edge[i].v;
    w = g->edge[i].w;
    if (d[u] != INFINITY && d[v] > d[u] + w) {
      printf("Negative weight cycle detected!\n");

  //No negative weight cycle found!
  //print the distance and predecessor array
  printf("Distance array: ");
  display(d, tV);
  printf("Predecessor array: ");
  display(p, tV);

void display(int arr[], int size) {
  int i;
  for (i = 0; i < size; i++) {
    printf("%d ", arr[i]);

Bellman Ford’s Complexity

Time Complexity

Best Case ComplexityO(E)
Average Case ComplexityO(VE)
Worst Case ComplexityO(VE)

Space Complexity

And, the space complexity is O(V).

Bellman Ford’s Algorithm Applications

  1. For calculating shortest paths in routing algorithms
  2. For finding the shortest path
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