In order to keep things clean I use functions.php almost solely to require other files. As such part of functions.php looks like this:

#include types
#include shortcodes
#include widgetareas
#include paging navs
#include widgets

themefolder/includes/widgets.php looks like this:

/*columns widget*/

And a working widget is written in themefolder/includes/widgets/columns-widget.php

Now here is the strange part: this code doesn't break or doesn't throw any errors. Yet the code written in themefolder/includes/widgets.php doesn't get processed and my columns-widget.php doesn't load.

On the other hand, if I rename themefolder/includes/widgets.php to themefolder/includes/widget.php and change the corresponding line in functions.php to

#include widgets

the code runs as expected and my columns-widget loads.

Why is this? Is this a bug or is it intended behavior?

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Custom Widget Creating PHP Exception When Placed In Its Own PHP File - I just remembered that this appeared here before. BTW tried it on my local set-up right now, it does work flawlessly with the file name widgets.php, although the difference is that I'm just using some dummy code, so no real widget initialization. Additionally my local server might just be better configured, if thats the reason, see possible duplicate for more info. Aug 27, 2015 at 13:16
  • I do think it's exactly the same issue, however the answer @Rarst provided is way better than the answer provided in the linked question. Aug 27, 2015 at 13:53
  • I think so too, thats why I left a note at the other thread. Aug 27, 2015 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


The first location where PHP would look for relative path will not be the file you specify include in, but relative to point of entry file (index.php or whatever).

Files are included based on the file path given or, if none is given, the include_path specified. If the file isn't found in the include_path, include will finally check in the calling script's own directory and the current working directory before failing.


My guess would be that your code picks up wp-admin/includes/widgets.php (because in admin context the point of entry is likely wp-admin/index.php) instead of your file.

Always write includes like require( __DIR__ . '/includes/widgets.php' );

  • This indeed fixes the problem! Thank you very much! Aug 27, 2015 at 13:52
  • But does this actually explain, why it depends on the file name? And if so, how? Or is it just, that then the second - or whatever - path looked at is the one of the file? Aug 27, 2015 at 14:08
  • 1
    @ialocin that's just how PHP works, I've added quote from relevant part of manual.
    – Rarst
    Aug 27, 2015 at 14:24
  • I should have figured - and I kind of did -, especially because I cited the same two sentences on the other question. But at least it is stated explicitly here too now. Aug 27, 2015 at 14:31

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