How would I get the top-level parent of a given term?

I am using wp_get_object_terms to get taxonomy terms on posts, but instead of showing all tagged terms, I only want to show tagged terms' top-level parents.

So if these are my selected terms, I only want to show Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

   x Cereal
   x Eggs
   x Pizza
      x Salmon

How can I do this?

8 Answers 8


Since 3.1.0, get_ancestors() is available. It returns an array of ancestors from lowest to highest in the hierarchy.

  • 1
    This is the correct answer in my opinion.
    – numediaweb
    Jul 5, 2015 at 10:14
  • 1
    This is the best answer.
    – Mark
    Jul 22, 2015 at 21:28

Thanks to Ivaylo for this code, which was based on Bainternet's answer.

The first function below, get_term_top_most_parent, accepts a term and taxonomy and returns the the term's top-level parent (or the term itself, if it's parentless); the second function (get_top_parents) works in the loop, and, given a taxonomy, returns an HTML list of the top-level parents of a post's terms.

// Determine the top-most parent of a term
function get_term_top_most_parent( $term, $taxonomy ) {
    // Start from the current term
    $parent  = get_term( $term, $taxonomy );
    // Climb up the hierarchy until we reach a term with parent = '0'
    while ( $parent->parent != '0' ) {
        $term_id = $parent->parent;
        $parent  = get_term( $term_id, $taxonomy);
    return $parent;

Once you have the function above, you can loop over the results returned by wp_get_object_terms and display each term's top parent:

function get_top_parents( $taxonomy ) {
    // get terms for current post
    $terms = wp_get_object_terms( get_the_ID(), $taxonomy );
    $top_parent_terms = array();

    foreach ( $terms as $term ) {
        //get top level parent
        $top_parent = get_term_top_most_parent( $term, $taxonomy );
        //check if you have it in your array to only add it once
        if ( !in_array( $top_parent, $top_parent_terms ) ) {
            $top_parent_terms[] = $top_parent;

    // build output (the HTML is up to you)
    $output = '<ul>';
    foreach ( $top_parent_terms as $term ) {
          //Add every term
          $output .= '<li><a href="'. get_term_link( $term ) . '">' . $term->name . '</a></li>';
    $output .= '</ul>';

    return $output;
  • I'd love to see a modification that wouldn't just print out the top-level terms but, rather, all terms beneath the top-most parent, hierarchically. Dec 22, 2018 at 0:14
  • @RobertAndrews If you just need the children of a single term, you can use WordPress's built-in get_term_children( $term, $taxonomy ) (documentation). If you wanted to to get all children of a given term's top-level parent, you could pass the above result into it, like this: get_term_children( get_term_top_most_parent( $term, $taxonomy ), $taxonomy ).
    – supertrue
    Jan 4, 2019 at 21:12
  • What is $term in this case, ie. the object, the name of the term, the prefixed taxonomyname_number? In all cases, this method is extremely long to load. I've been waiting for the page to load for several minutes now. Jan 4, 2019 at 21:54
  • 1
    As originally written it expected an ID, but I edited the answer to allow a term ID or WP_Term object. You're not the only one reporting an issue with this code—ideally it should be rewritten to use WP's built-in get_ancestors function, which was new and not well documented when the answer was written. I will post a new answer when I've had time to test.
    – supertrue
    Jan 5, 2019 at 4:14

Here is a simple function that will get you the top most parent term of any given term:

function get_term_top_most_parent( $term_id, $taxonomy ) {
    $parent  = get_term_by( 'id', $term_id, $taxonomy );
    while ( $parent->parent != 0 ){
        $parent  = get_term_by( 'id', $parent->parent, $taxonomy );
    return $parent;

Once you have this function you can just loop over the results returned by wp_get_object_terms:

$terms =  wp_get_object_terms( $post->ID, 'taxonomy' );
$top_parent_terms = array();
foreach ( $terms as $term ) {

    //Get top level parent
    $top_parent = get_term_top_most_parent( $term->ID, 'taxomony' );

    //Check if you have it in your array to only add it once
    if ( !in_array( $top_parent->ID, $top_parent_terms ) ) {
        $top_parent_terms[] = $top_parent;
  • Thanks! I'm trying this now. FYI I think you're missing a close paren in line 1 of the function.
    – supertrue
    Aug 3, 2011 at 13:19
  • do I need to add $taxonomy as a second parameter in $top_parent?
    – supertrue
    Aug 3, 2011 at 13:20
  • I added the $taxonomy parameter but am getting an error when I use this code, here: gist.github.com/1122631
    – supertrue
    Aug 3, 2011 at 13:33
  • yeah you do. i updated the answer.
    – Bainternet
    Aug 3, 2011 at 13:33
  • 1
    your function seems broken your foreach loops are overlapping try this: pastebin.com/u48dxzap and if you still get an error paste all of you code and i'll check
    – Bainternet
    Aug 3, 2011 at 17:36
 * Get top level term
function get_top_level_term($term,$taxonomy){
    if($term->parent==0) return $term;
    $parent = get_term( $term->parent,$taxonomy);
    return get_top_level_term( $parent , $taxonomy );
  • 1
    Please add an explanation along with your code.
    – s_ha_dum
    Oct 18, 2013 at 4:43

I had the same problem and I solved easily. Check this out:

Define $taxonomy. It can be the slug of the taxonomy you want to get the data. After doing this, you can simply do this:

    $postterms = wp_get_post_terms($post->ID, $taxonomy);   // get post terms
    $parentId = $postterms[0]->parent;                      // get parent term ID
    $parentObj = get_term_by('id', $parentId, $taxonomy);   // get parent object 

Now you got something like this:

object(stdClass)#98 (11) {
  string(8) "Esportes"
  string(8) "esportes"
  string(17) "noticiaseditorias"
  string(0) ""
  string(3) "raw"

And you can use $parentObj to get slug, name, id, whatever. Just by using $parentObj->slug or $parentObj->name as exemple.


Easiest way:

$rootId = end( get_ancestors( $term_id, 'my_taxonomy' ) );
$root = get_term( $rootId, 'my_taxonomy' );
echo $root->name;

Maybe this helps: get_ancestors( $object_id, $object_type );



Try this!

function get_term_top_most_parent( $term_id, $taxonomy ) {
    $ancestors = get_ancestors( $term_id, $taxonomy );

        $parentID = end( $ancestors );
        $parentID = $term_id;
    return $parentID;
  • Please edit your answer, and add an explanation: why could that solve the problem?
    – fuxia
    Sep 1, 2021 at 12:25

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