In formal terms, a directed graph is an ordered pair G = (V, A) where
The aforementioned definition does not allow a directed graph to have multiple arrows with the same source and target nodes, but some authors consider a broader definition that allows directed graphs to have such multiple arcs (namely, they allow the arc set to be a multiset). More specifically, these entities are addressed as directed multigraphs (or multidigraphs).
On the other hand, the aforementioned definition allows a directed graph to have loops (that is, arcs that directly connect nodes with themselves), but some authors consider a narrower definition that doesn't allow directed graphs to have loops. More specifically, directed graphs without loops are addressed as simple directed graphs, while directed graphs with loops are addressed as loop-digraphs (see section Types of directed graphs).
An arc (x, y) is considered to be directed from x to y; y is called the head and x is called the tail of the arc; y is said to be a direct successor of x and x is said to be a direct predecessor of y. If a path leads from x to y, then y is said to be a successor of x and reachable from x, and x is said to be a predecessor of y. The arc (y, x) is called the reversed arc of (x, y).
The adjacency matrix of a multidigraph with loops is the integer-valued matrix with rows and columns corresponding to the vertices, where a nondiagonal entry aij is the number of arcs from vertex i to vertex j, and the diagonal entry aii is the number of loops at vertex i. The adjacency matrix of a directed graph is unique up to identical permutation of rows and columns.
Another matrix representation for a directed graph is its incidence matrix.
For a vertex, the number of head ends adjacent to a vertex is called the indegree of the vertex and the number of tail ends adjacent to a vertex is its outdegree (called branching factor in trees).
Let G = (V, A) and v ∈ V. The indegree of v is denoted deg−(v) and its outdegree is denoted deg+(v).
A vertex with deg−(v) = 0 is called a source, as it is the origin of each of its outcoming arcs. Similarly, a vertex with deg+(v) = 0 is called a sink, since it is the end of each of its incoming arcs.
If for every vertex v ∈ V, deg+(v) = deg−(v), the graph is called a balanced directed graph.
The degree sequence of a directed graph is the list of its indegree and outdegree pairs; for the above example we have degree sequence ((2, 0), (2, 2), (0, 2), (1, 1)). The degree sequence is a directed graph invariant so isomorphic directed graphs have the same degree sequence. However, the degree sequence does not, in general, uniquely identify a directed graph; in some cases, non-isomorphic digraphs have the same degree sequence.
The directed graph realization problem is the problem of finding a directed graph with the degree sequence a given sequence of positive integer pairs. (Trailing pairs of zeros may be ignored since they are trivially realized by adding an appropriate number of isolated vertices to the directed graph.) A sequence which is the degree sequence of some directed graph, i.e. for which the directed graph realization problem has a solution, is called a directed graphic or directed graphical sequence. This problem can either be solved by the Kleitman–Wang algorithm or by the Fulkerson–Chen–Anstee theorem.
A directed graph is strongly connected or strong if it contains a directed path from x to y (and from y to x) for every pair of vertices (x, y). The strong components are the maximal strongly connected subgraphs.
A connected rooted graph (or flow graph) is one where there exists a directed path to every vertex from a distinguished root vertex.