A 2-stable set (or a distance-two independent set) of a graph $G$ is a set of vertices which are pairwise at a distance greater than 2 in $G$.

Is there a name for a set of vertices which are pairwise at a distance at most 2?

Such a set for a graph $G$ is basically a clique in the square graph $G^2$ of G. Are there any papers that study (or at least mention) this parameter?

Update (2022-03-09):
A set of vertices $S$ in a graph $G$ such that $d_G(u,v)\leq 2$ for all $u,v\in S$ is called a '2-clique' in $G$ (2nd definition here: [1]; usual meaning of $k$-clique is a clique of size $k$). Another related concept is that of a 2-club (also called 2-clan). A 2-club in $G$ is a set of vertices $S$ in $G$ such that $d_{G[S]}(u,v)\leq 2$ for all $u,v\in S$ [2]. I am interested in '2-cliques', not 2-clubs. A clique in $G^2$ is a '2-clique', not a 2-club. Thanks to JimN for directing me to the youtube channel Wrath of Math and thus to [1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqPHg9uNp-o
[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hw3VJCTgnIA

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps: The vertex set of a subgraph with diameter at most $2$. $\endgroup$
    – Gamow
    Mar 7 at 13:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Subgraph of diameter 2 is exactly what I am interested in. In this question, they call such maximal subgraphs as diameter-2 clques. $\endgroup$ Mar 8 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for the confusion. A subgraph of diameter two is not what I want (it is a 2-club). I am interested in clique in square graph. The difference is that a clique $S$ in $G^2$ can contain two vertices $u$ and $v$ such that $d_G(u,v)=2$, but $d_{G[S]}(u,v)>2$. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 at 3:06

1 Answer 1


There are a number of related notions which could be what you are asking depending on whether the shortest paths between a pair of nodes in a set $S$ are allowed to use nodes outside of the set $S$ or not.

I believe these notions date back to Mokken (1979) who called these variants '$k$-cliques', '$k$-clans' and '$k$-clubs' in a sociological context. See also this video that distinguishes them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hw3VJCTgnIA (but also mentions that maybe people since then have used some of these terms interchangeably). One should always be clear about which definition they are using.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. I am interested in 2-clques (defined in this youtube video by Wrath of Math). Sorry for confusing 2-cliques with 2-clubs. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ Could you please mention about 2-cliques also in your answer? (please see the update to the question). I would like to upvote this answer for directing me to the notion of 2-clique. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ The name 2-clique is used in Mokken (Cliques, clubs and clans) as well. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ @CyriacAntony I have edited the response to include the k-clique terminology. If k-clique is the only term you think you are after here and you want to credit an original source, I believe Mokken cites that back to Luce(1950) or Alba(1973) $\endgroup$
    – JimN
    Mar 9 at 6:39

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