The following list contains common time complexities of algorithms:

O(1) The running time of a constant-time algorithm does not depend on the input size. A typical constant-time algorithm is a direct formula that calculates the answer.

O(log n) A logarithmic algorithm often halves the input size at each step. The running time of such an algorithm is logarithmic, because log2 n equals the number of times n must be divided by 2 to get 1. Note that the base of the logarithm is not shown in the time complexity.

O(√n) A square root algorithm is slower than O(log n) but faster than O(n). A special property of square roots is that

√n = n/√n, so n elements can be dividedinto O(√n) blocks of O(√n) elements.

O(n) A linear algorithm goes through the input a constant number of times. This is often the best possible time complexity, because it is usually necessary to access each input element at least once before reporting the answer.

O(n log n) This time complexity often indicates that the algorithm sorts the input,because the time complexity of efficient sorting algorithms is O(n log n). Another possibility is that the algorithm uses a data structure where each operation takes O(log n) time.

O(n2) A quadratic algorithm often contains two nested loops. It is possible to go through all pairs of the input elements in O(n2) time.

O(n3) A cubic algorithm often contains three nested loops. It is possible to go through all triplets of the input elements in O(n3) time.

O(2n) This time complexity often indicates that the algorithm iterates through all subsets of the input elements. For example, the subsets of {1, 2, 3} are ∅, {1}, {2}, {3}, {1, 2}, {1, 3}, {2, 3}, and {1, 2, 3}.

O(n!) This time complexity often indicates that the algorithm iterates through all permutations of the input elements. For example, the permutations of {1, 2, 3} are (1, 2, 3), (1, 3, 2), (2, 1, 3), (2, 3, 1), (3, 1, 2), and (3, 2, 1).

An algorithm is polynomial if its time complexity is at most O(nk ) where k is a constant. All the above time complexities except O(2n) and O(n!) are polynomial. In practice, the constant k is usually small, and therefore a polynomial time complexity roughly means that the algorithm can process large inputs.

Most algorithms in this book are polynomial. Still, there are many important problems for which no polynomial algorithm is known, i.e., nobody knows how to solve them efficiently. NP-hard problems are an important set of problems, for which no polynomial algorithm is known.