What is the difference, which one should I use?

I know that wp_verify_nonce checks the time limit, and check_admin_referer I think calls wp_verify_nonce as well as checking for an admin url segment, but I'm a bit confused on which one I should use and when.

Thanks for the clarity.

  • 1
    Tumbleweed badge for this question? Really? Anyone? – Jeff Apr 19 '12 at 18:53

I thought that check_admin_referer checked the nonce (it does call wp_verify_nonce, and the referring url. After digging into the core code I realised that it did not do this. Thinking it was a bug I reported it, and Ryan Boren replied with the following:

Actually, if the nonce is valid the referrer should not be checked. The unreliability of referrers is one of the reasons that nonces are used. Nonces replace referrer checking entirely. The only time we check the referrer is when handling the -1 backward compatibility condition. -1 means that someone is not using nonces so we fall back to referrer checking. This usage is now very rare. check_admin_referer() is badly named now that it almost never does referrer checking. It would be better named something like check_nonce(), but we keep it as is for back compat and old times sake.

So there is in fact there is no difference.

  • Nice digging work, thanks, that brings some clarity. – Jeff May 16 '12 at 22:19
  • 5
    There's actually one big difference that affects usage...check_admin_referer kills the entire script with die() if the nonce isn't valid, whereas wp_verify_nonce returns false. So if there are certain normal circumstances in which the nonce will fail, use wp_verify_nonce so that the rest of the script still executes. – SeventhSteel Mar 9 '15 at 18:41
  • @SeventhSteel - you are of course right. My interpretation of the question was that the logic of checking nonces were being compared rather than what happens when its invalid – Stephen Harris Mar 9 '15 at 18:58


Dont count on check_admin_referer, Be careful!

  • It includes wp_verify_none only in case when _wpnonce was set!!!
  • In that case, it doesnt DIE(). Instead, it returns false...

Look through this phseudo-code (full source is here):

function check_admin_referer( $action = -1, $query_arg = '_wpnonce' ) {
    $result = isset($_REQUEST[$query_arg]) ? wp_verify_nonce($_REQUEST[$query_arg], $action) : false;
    do_action( 'check_admin_referer', $action, $result );
    if ( ! $result && ! ( -1 == $action && strpos( $referer, $adminurl ) === 0 ) ) {
    return $result;

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