String metric

In mathematics and computer science, a string metric (also known as a string similarity metric or string distance function) is a metric that measures distance ("inverse similarity") between two text strings for approximate string matching or comparison and in fuzzy string searching. A necessary requirement for a string metric (e.g. in contrast to string matching) is fulfillment of the triangle inequality. For example, the strings "Sam" and "Samuel" can be considered to be close.[1] A string metric provides a number indicating an algorithm-specific indication of distance.

The most widely known string metric is a rudimentary one called the Levenshtein distance (also known as edit distance).[2] It operates between two input strings, returning a number equivalent to the number of substitutions and deletions needed in order to transform one input string into another. Simplistic string metrics such as Levenshtein distance have expanded to include phonetic, token, grammatical and character-based methods of statistical comparisons.

String metrics are used heavily in information integration and are currently used in areas including fraud detection, fingerprint analysis, plagiarism detection, ontology merging, DNA analysis, RNA analysis, image analysis, evidence-based machine learning, database data deduplication, data mining, incremental search, data integration, and semantic knowledge integration.

List of string metrics

Selected string measures examples

Name Example
Hamming distance "karolin" and "kathrin" is 3.
Levenshtein distance and Damerau–Levenshtein distance kitten and sitting have a distance of 3.
  1. kittensitten (substitution of "s" for "k")
  2. sittensittin (substitution of "i" for "e")
  3. sittinsitting (insertion of "g" at the end).
Jaro–Winkler distance JaroWinklerDist("MARTHA","MARHTA") =
  • is the number of matching characters;
  • is half the number of transpositions("MARTHA"[3]!=H, "MARHTA"[3]!=T).
Most frequent k characters MostFreqKeySimilarity('research', 'seeking', 2) = 2


  1. Lu, Jiaheng (et al) (2013). "String similarity measures and joins with synonyms". Proceedings of the 2013 ACM SIGMOD International Conference on Management of Data: 373–384. doi:10.1145/2463676.2465313. ISBN 9781450320375.
  2. Navarro, Gonzalo (2001). "A guided tour to approximate string matching". ACM Computing Surveys. 33 (1): 31–88. doi:10.1145/375360.375365.
  3. Cohen, William; Ravikumar, Pradeep; Fienberg, Stephen (2003-08-01). "A Comparison of String Distance Metrics for Name-Matching Tasks": 73–78. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
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