I have a binary heap with $n$ elements. I want to get the $k$ largest elements in this heap, in $O(k \log k)$ time. How do I do it?

(Calling deletemax $k$ times yields a $O(k \log n)$ complexity. I'm looking for $O(k \log k)$.)

The only solution I've come up with so far is the following:

You have 2 arrays. A(largest numbers), B(to analyze).

  • It's easy to find the largest number, since we already have the heap. We move the maximum number to $A$.
  • We move the maximum number's children to $B$
  • We sort $B$
  • We add the children of the largest number in $B$
  • Remove the largest number from B (first element of $B$), add it to $A$
  • Repeat the procedure until there are $k$ elements in $A$

The question here is: do we get a $O(k \log k)$ complexity? we obviously repeat the procedure $k$ times, but does the sorting take $O(\log k)$ time? I guess if the array is already sorted it's easy to insert a new number in $O(\log k)$ time. However, will the length of array B always be less than or equal to $k$?

Can you please confirm or deny my solution? If it's wrong, can you please help me find a solution to this problem?

  • $\begingroup$ By determine you mean storing largest number, deleting it and reorganizing the heap? $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ I know what deletemax() does. deletemax() takes log(n) time. performing it k times will take klog(n) time. I'm trying to find an algorithm with klog(k) complexity. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ 1. Sorry, I misunderstood. 2. "Can you confirm my solution?" questions are not a good fit for this site. 3. Why would you expect sorting to take $O(\log k)$ time? I suspect you should be thinking about this as inserting into an already-sorted list, not as sorting a list. $\endgroup$
    – D.W.
    Oct 22, 2014 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ Answered here with $k=log n$ cs.stackexchange.com/questions/79472/… $\endgroup$
    – MERTON
    Jan 22, 2022 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


Hint: Each time you perform one iteration of your loop, how much does the size of $B$ increase? Each time you perform one iteration of your loop, how many numbers are added to $A$?

You terminate once $k$ integers have been added to $A$... so how many times will the loop iterate? What does this tell you about how large $B$ can get? What does that say about the running time of your algorithm?

(I am giving only a hint, so you can have the pleasure of working out the answer on your own.)


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