I have a custom WP_Query with the following meta_query:

$meta_query = array();

$meta_query['relation'] = 'AND';

if(!empty($postcode)) {
    $meta_query[] = array(
        'key' => 'postcode',
        'value' => $postcode,
        'compare' => 'LIKE'

if(!empty($email)) {
    $meta_query[] = array(
        'key' => 'email_address',
        'value' => $email,
        'compare' => 'LIKE'

The problem with this is WordPress is wrapping each meta value in %% to use as part of the LIKE comparison in the query e.g WHERE meta_value LIKE '%hello@example.com%'

Is it possible to set up a meta_query so only one percentage sign is used, so we can check if a value starts with or ends with a phrase? e.g WHERE meta_value LIKE 'hello@%'

  • Keep in mind post meta queries are super expensive and slow, if you need to filter search or query data, it should be stored using a taxonomy, not post meta – Tom J Nowell Dec 21 '17 at 18:11

You could try the REGEXP version:

    'meta_query' => array(
            'key'       => 'email_address',
            'value'     => '^hello@',
            'compare'   => 'REGEXP',

where ^ matches the beginning of a string.

You can check the MYSQL reference on REGEXP here for more info.

Notice that these are the possible values of the meta compare parameter:

'=', '!=', '>', '>=', '<', '<=', 

according to the WordPress 3.9.2 source.

From the MYSQL ref:

Name        Description
REGEXP      Pattern matching using regular expressions
RLIKE       Synonym for REGEXP
| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Great stuff, thanks very much. It's a shame they don't list REGEXP as a valid compare value in the docs (From codex.wordpress.org/Class_Reference/WP_Meta_Query Possible values are '=', '!=', '>', '>=', '<', '<=', 'LIKE', 'NOT LIKE', 'IN', 'NOT IN', 'BETWEEN', 'NOT BETWEEN', 'EXISTS' (only in WP >= 3.5), and 'NOT EXISTS' (also only in WP >= 3.5). Default value is '='.) – Andy Aug 28 '14 at 13:22
  • 2
    I updated the Codex with these extra parameters: REGEXP, NOT REGEXP and RLIKE. – birgire Aug 28 '14 at 17:19

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