I added a sequence field to a taxonomy with ACF. I read here that wp_list_categories() creates an instance of the WP_Term_Query class.

I can orderby the category listing based on the ACF field with the following code

 * The Template for displaying project archives category list at single hierarchy level.
 * @author      mZoo
 * @package     Projects/Templates
 * @version     1.0.0

$args = array('taxonomy' => 'project-category',
              'title_li' => '',
              'depth' => 1,
              'style' => '',
              'echo' => 0,
              'meta_key' => 'project_category_sequence',
              'orderby' => 'meta_value'


<?php $categories = wp_list_categories($args);

if ( $categories ) {
    printf( '<div class="category-grid">%s</div>', $categories );

This only returns categories for which this field is populated.

What I want is to:

  1. also return the categories for which the ACF field isn't set
  2. order them by title

Is this a job for a meta_query?


I have tried this approach:

'meta_query' => [
      'relation' => 'OR',
      'project_sequence_clause' => [
          'key'     => 'project_category_sequence',
          'value' => 'EXISTS'
      'title_clause' => [
          'key'     => 'title',
          'value' => 'EXISTS'
  'orderby' => [
      'project_sequence_clause' => 'ASC',
      'title_clause' => 'ASC'

It seems that WP_Term_Query->parse_orderby() requires a string and not an array.

I think that there may be something useful in WP_Term_Query->parse_orderby_meta(), but for now I'm just going to populate the project_category_sequence field manually as a workaround, and make it a required field so new categories will have it by default.

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