How to hook a filter to catch get_post_meta when alternate a custom field output?

I have fill a custom field(meta data) in a post, just like this:

<!--:de-->Nominale spanning<!--:--><!--:zh/cn-->额定电压<!--:--><!--:en-->Arrester Accessories<!--:-->

I need to get this output translated,so I wondering how to hook into "get_post_meta" before the meta data output.

Here is what I've tried for a few days, but no luck.

function getqtlangcustomfieldvalue($metadata, $object_id, $meta_key, $single){
    if($meta_key==$fieldtitle&& isset($meta_key)){
         //here is the catch, but no value has been passed
//Specify 4 arguments for this filter in the last parameter.
add_filter('get_post_metadata', 'getqtlangcustomfieldvalue', 10, 4);
  • 2
    What you are doing should work. What "value" has not been passed?
    – s_ha_dum
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 15:35

3 Answers 3


After a lot of messing around with this, I think I found a fairly good solution here. I realize this is over a year after you asked but this was bothering me and I couldn't find a good solution until now.

The problem is that the get_post_metadata function doesn't allow you to access the current value. This means you aren't able to transform the value, just replace it. I needed to append content to a meta field and where it was output did not allow filters of any kind.

Here's my solution, altered to fit what this question asks:

function getqtlangcustomfieldvalue($metadata, $object_id, $meta_key, $single){

    // Here is the catch, add additional controls if needed (post_type, etc)
    $meta_needed = 'fields_titles';
    if ( isset( $meta_key ) && $meta_needed == $meta_key ){
        remove_filter( 'get_post_metadata', 'getqtlangcustomfieldvalue', 100 );
        $current_meta = get_post_meta( $object_id, $meta_needed, TRUE );
        add_filter('get_post_metadata', 'getqtlangcustomfieldvalue', 100, 4);

        // Do what you need to with the meta value - translate, append, etc
        // $current_meta = qtlangcustomfieldvalue_translate( $current_meta );
        // $current_meta .= ' Appended text';
        return $current_meta;

    // Return original if the check does not pass
    return $metadata;


add_filter( 'get_post_metadata', 'getqtlangcustomfieldvalue', 100, 4 );

This will keep any other get_post_metadata filters intact and allow modification of the original value.

  • If you're getting a serialized array from post meta, maybe you need to return the value inside a new array. Example: return array( $metadata ); Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 22:18

Just had the same problem and, using your code above, here is how I solved it:

function getqtlangcustomfieldvalue($metadata, $object_id, $meta_key, $single) {
    if($meta_key==$fieldtitle&& isset($meta_key)) {
        //use $wpdb to get the value
        global $wpdb;
        $value = $wpdb->get_var( "SELECT meta_value FROM $wpdb->postmeta WHERE post_id = $object_id AND  meta_key = '".$meta_key."'" );

        //do whatever with $value

        return $value;
add_filter('get_post_metadata', 'getqtlangcustomfieldvalue', 10, 4);

I tried using apply_filters, get_metadata, get_post_meta directly within the function but they wouldn't allow me to manipulate the resulting output, so I resorted to using $wpdb.

  • 1
    Beware, this will prevent the filtered meta from being cached in object cache. @joshcanhelp's solution won't suffer from that since it still call get_post_meta()
    – Z. Zlatev
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 9:55
  • This will DDOS your database server.
    – svandragt
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 11:31
  • Correct on caching. get_post_meta is better to use, but at the time back in 2014, it wouldn't run in the function. But crash a db server - I don't think so. The get_var query is equivalent to get_post_meta and is a simple query. Even if it were run hundreds of times on a page, it would not crash a server. It's been running on production since 2014 with no issues.
    – forlogos
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 12:32

Here's my solution for filtering post meta. This then calls a custom function to perform any required data manipulation.

public function filter_post_meta($metadata = null, $object_id, $meta_key, $single)
    $meta_cache = wp_cache_get($object_id, 'post_meta');

    if ( !$meta_cache ) {
        $meta_cache = update_meta_cache( 'post', array( $object_id ) );
        $meta_cache = $meta_cache[$object_id];

    if ( ! $meta_key ) {
        foreach ($meta_cache as $key => $val) {
            foreach ($val as $k => $v) {
                $meta_cache[$key][$k] = yourCustomFunction($v);

        return $meta_cache;

    if ( isset($meta_cache[$meta_key]) ) {
        if ( $single ) {
            $value = maybe_unserialize( $meta_cache[$meta_key][0] );

            return yourCustomFunction($value);
        } else {
            return array_map(

    return $single ? '' : [];

add_filter('get_post_metadata', 'filter_post_meta', 100, 4);

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