I'm fairly new to wordpress and am coming across new things each day - one was today when I happened across get_terms and noticed that it was basically the same as get_category.

Any particular reason to use one or the other? Is there something that I'm missing?

3 Answers 3


As you dive into WordPress, you'll find that WordPress has a lot of wrapper functions. For instance, there's add_theme_page that's just a wrapper of add_submenu_page. That's certainly not the only example (add_submenu_page itself has a bunch of wrappers, in fact). If you look at the source for get_categories(), you'll see that it too is a wrapper for get_terms() (I just learned that myself, so thanks!).

I find that the taxonomy-related functions are some of the most convoluted. A lot of them take very similar arguments and return similar things with little differences. In this case, get_terms() has a name__like parameter that get_category() doesn't. There are probably other little differences too.

As a personal preference, I try to use get_terms() as much as possible. In some cases, like add_theme_page that's the recommended function (presumably so WordPress could make changes to the Theme page and keep that function working), but in other cases like this one, I don't think it makes much of a difference. If nothing else, the familiarity helps me do more with it faster. However, some of the functions that return HTML lists like wp_list_categories() can be useful at times.


One of the most important (and not very obvious) differences between get_terms() and get_categories() is that get_categories() is a wrapper function for get_terms('category'). This means that you cannot get custom taxonomies with get_categories() and must use get_terms() instead.

  • Doh, this may not be true. Please disregard until I get an opportunity to verify a previous issue I ran in to. My apologies. Commented May 29, 2012 at 18:58
  • 1
    Did you see the accepted answer that already explains this?
    – Chris_O
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:38
  • @BrentClark Did you ever find out if this was true? It's a more helpful answer to me. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:15

It is possible to query custom taxonomy with get_categories


// Taxonomy query
$venue_args = array(
  'child_of'   => $venue_id,
  'taxonomy'   => 'wpmf-category',
  'hide_empty' => false
$venue_cats = get_categories( $venue_args );

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