Given a DAG, which can represent a partial order and has at least one topological sort.

For example the graph

 /  \
A    >D
 \  /

has two topological sorts "ABCD" and "ACBD".

My question is the following: Is there a name for the following total order sort of sets:

S: ( {A} , {B,C} , {D} )

The inductive definition is similar to constructing a topological sort:

  1. Put the all the graph minima (nodes with no input edges) in set #i S: ( {A} )
  2. Remove the graph minima from the graph. G:= G \ {A}
  3. repeat step 1. with i := i+1 as long as the graph is non-empty

I find this in several computer science domains. For example method selection in CLOS (Common Lisp), a parallel scheduler of a DAG where nodes are tasks and edges dependencies, the list of all enabled sets in dataflow or petri-net model executions, etc. I haven't found a single nomenclature or even a reference for it though. It sounds simple and pervasive enough to merit one.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I would just call it a greedy partition into antichains. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ alternately, you could call it a layered decomposition. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


In the context of geometric dominance orders, the standard term is "layers of maxima" (in your case, minima). Obviously, the same term can be used for any partial order.



  • $\begingroup$ Which is also called a 'skyline' apparently, according to one of those papers. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Beef
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 10:47

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