Boyer-Moore (String Matching Algo)

title: Boyer-Moore


This algorithm has been shown to be more effective than the Knuth-Morris-Pratt algorithm and others for pattern matching in natural languages like English. It relies on the use of two key heuristics, namely:

  • The looking-glass heuristic: where the pattern P is compared to a substring of the text T starting from P’s last letter
  • Character-jump heuristic: if there is a mismatch at T[i] = c then
    • If P contains c, shift P to line up the last instance of c in P with T[i]
    • Else move P to align P[0] with T[i+1]

Before applying these heuristics however, the algorithm analyses pattern P and alphabet Σ to create a last occurrence function. This function ties the letters of the alphabet to the letters in P according to where they occur in P.

So if the last occurence of the letter c in P is at index P[i] then at L(c) the index i of that letter will be stored. If the letter c does not occur in P, -1 will be stored there.


Σ = {e, f, g, h}
P = egef


The last occurrence function can be stored as an array indexed by the numeric codes of the characters. This function can be calculated in O(m+s) time where m is the length of the pattern and s the size of the alphabet.

Code of Boyer-Moore Algorithm in C++

#include<iostream> #define MAXCHAR 256 //there are 256 ASCII characters using namespace std; int min(int num1, int num2) { if (num1 < num2) { return num1; } return num2; } void makeLOFunction(string pattern, int LOFunction[MAXCHAR]) { int n = pattern.size(); for (int c = 0; c < MAXCHAR; c++) LOFunction[c] = -1; for (int c = 0; c < n; c++) LOFunction[(int)pattern[c]] = c; } int boyerMoore(string pattern, string text) { int m = pattern.size(); int n = text.size(); int LOFunction[MAXCHAR]; makeLOFunction(pattern, LOFunction); //fill array of last occurrence function int i = m-1; int j = m-1; do { if (text[i] == pattern[j]) { if (j == 0) { cout << "Pattern starts at index " << i << "\n"; return 1; //match found at i } else { i--; j--; //move backwards through pattern } } else { int leap = LOFunction[(int)text[i]]; //character jump i = i + m - min(j, leap+1); j = m - 1; } } while (i <= n-1); //while not reached end of text cout << "Match not found\n"; return -1; //no match found } int main() { string pattern = "abacab"; string text = "abacaabadcabacabaabb"; boyerMoore(pattern, text); }


  1. Aliaga, D (2016) Strings and Pattern Matching, lecture notes, Data Structures and Algorithms CS251, Purdue University, delivered 9 April 2016.
  2. Christine, S (2018) Bad Character Heuristic [Source code].
  3. Buerger, H (2012) Boyer-Moore Algorithm [Source code].

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