Find the closest element in Binary Search Tree


Given a binary search tree and a target node K. The task is to find the node with minimum absolute difference with given target value K.


// For above binary search tree
Input  :  k = 4
Output :  4

Input  :  k = 18
Output :  17

Input  :  k = 12
Output :  9

A simple solution for this problem is to store Inorder traversal of given binary search tree in an auxiliary array and then by taking absolute difference of each element find the node having minimum absolute difference with given target value K in linear time.

An efficient solution for this problem is to take advantage of characteristics of BST. Here is the algorithm to solve this problem :

  • If target value K is present in given BST, then it’s the node having minimum absolute difference.
  • If target value K is less than the value of current node then move to the left child.
  • If target value K is greater than the value of current node then move to the right child.
  • // Recursive C++ program to find key closest to k
    // in given Binary Search Tree.
    using namespace std;
    /* A binary tree node has key, pointer to left child
    and a pointer to right child */
    struct Node
        int key;
        struct Node* left, *right;
    /* Utility that allocates a new node with the
      given key and NULL left and right pointers. */
    struct Node* newnode(int key)
        struct Node* node = new (struct Node);
        node->key = key;
        node->left = node->right  = NULL;
        return (node);
    // Function to find node with minimum absolute
    // difference with given K
    // min_diff   --> minimum difference till now
    // min_diff_key  --> node having minimum absolute
    //                   difference with K
    void maxDiffUtil(struct Node *ptr, int k, int &min_diff,
                                          int &min_diff_key)
        if (ptr == NULL)
            return ;
        // If k itself is present
        if (ptr->key == k)
            min_diff_key = k;
        // update min_diff and min_diff_key by checking
        // current node value
        if (min_diff > abs(ptr->key - k))
            min_diff = abs(ptr->key - k);
            min_diff_key = ptr->key;
        // if k is less than ptr->key then move in
        // left subtree else in right subtree
        if (k < ptr->key)
            maxDiffUtil(ptr->left, k, min_diff, min_diff_key);
            maxDiffUtil(ptr->right, k, min_diff, min_diff_key);
    // Wrapper over maxDiffUtil()
    int maxDiff(Node *root, int k)
        // Initialize minimum difference
        int min_diff = INT_MAX, min_diff_key = -1;
        // Find value of min_diff_key (Closest key
        // in tree with k)
        maxDiffUtil(root, k, min_diff, min_diff_key);
        return min_diff_key;
    // Driver program to run the case
    int main()
        struct Node *root = newnode(9);
        root->left    = newnode(4);
        root->right   = newnode(17);
        root->left->left = newnode(3);
        root->left->right = newnode(6);
        root->left->right->left = newnode(5);
        root->left->right->right = newnode(7);
        root->right->right = newnode(22);
        root->right->right->left = newnode(20);
        int k = 18;
        cout << maxDiff(root, k);
        return 0;



    Time complexity : O(h) where h is height of given Binary Search Tree.

    Reference :

    This article is contributed by Shashank Mishra ( Gullu ). If you like GeeksforGeeks and would like to contribute, you can also write an article using or mail your article to See your article appearing on the GeeksforGeeks main page and help other Geeks.

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