Ternary Search

Last updated: January 18, 2017

What Does Ternary Search Mean?

In computer science and advanced mathematics, a ternary search is a search algorithm that uses a "divide and conquer" strategy to isolate a particular value. It is similar to a binary search, but it divides the search data structure into three parts instead of two.


Divide-and-conquer algorithms work recursively. Through repetitive operations, the algorithm narrows the search field (i.e., the search data structure) in order to isolate the search value. In a ternary search, the algorithm divides the search field into thirds and isolates the minimum or maximum value from two of those thirds. Working recursively, the algorithm can isolate the search value if it exists. For example, out of 30 available end nodes, a first-order ternary search would narrow the field from 30 to 10, and a second-level search would narrow it further from 10 to 3 or 4.


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