Levenshtein distance (Java)

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Simple (no weights, no recorded edit transcript) DP-based computation of the edit distance (also known as Levenshtein distance) of two given strings S1 and S2 of lengths n and m with a time complexity of O(nm), the time to fill the DP table. See Gusfield, p. 215 for details and extensions.


We compute the edit distance of two strings using the standard DP approach: we find D(n,m) by computing all combinations of D(i,j) for i and j smaller than n,m. Initialize the table of height s1.length+1 and width s2.length+1:

int[][] dp = new int[s1.length() + 1][s2.length() + 1];

We fill each row, from left to right:

for (int i = 0; i < dp.length; i++) {
	for (int j = 0; j < dp[i].length; j++) {

Fill the table with the initial values, based on the base conditions: D(i,0)=i and D(0,j)=j, resulting in row 0 filled with values from 0 to n-1 and column 0 with values 0 to m-1:

dp[i][j] = i == 0 ? j : j == 0 ? i : 0;

For the other values, perform the bottom-up simulation of the recurrence relation, the actual DP computation:

if (i > 0 && j > 0) {

The best case: match, so we can take the diagonal value without further cost (we compare the strings at index-1 since the table is one position larger than the strings in height and width).

if (s1.charAt(i - 1) == s2.charAt(j - 1))
	dp[i][j] = dp[i - 1][j - 1];

Else, we pick set the new optimal sub-solution to MIN(DP[i][j-1]+1,DP[i-1][j-1]+1,DP[i-1][j]+1), i.e. to the minimum result of the replace (diagonal), insert-into-s1/delete-from-s2 (horizontal), and delete-from-s1/insert-into-s2 (vertical) operations.

	dp[i][j] = Math.min(dp[i][j - 1] + 1, Math.min(
			dp[i - 1][j - 1] + 1, dp[i - 1][j] + 1));

The result is stored in the bottom right cell of the DP table: the edit distance for pair n,m: D(n,m).

return dp[s1.length()][s2.length()];

Compute the edit distance for some samples, including empty strings:

EditDistance distance = new EditDistance();
System.out.println(distance.compute("vintner", "writers"));
System.out.println(distance.compute("vintners", "writers"));
System.out.println(distance.compute("vintners", ""));
System.out.println(distance.compute("", ""));

The complete program:

public class EditDistance {
	public int compute(String s1, String s2) {
	public static void main(String[] args) {


  • Gusfield, Dan (1999), Algorithms on Strings, Sequences and Trees. Cambridge: University Press.
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