I'd like to have a non-hierarchical custom taxonomy displayed in the add/edit posts admin screen for a custom post type. Obviously, when the custom taxonomy is non-hierarchical, the meta box that's displayed is similar to the tags - it's a text field with the auto-suggest.

However, I'm more interested in having a flat, non-hierarchical taxonomy display as a list of checkbox terms. In essence, I'd like it's functionality to be the same as categories, with the exception that child terms could not be added.

Surely this is something that other developers have done, but the normal Google searches haven't returned much for me. Apparently this was the default behavior when custom taxonomies were originally introduced in v2.8.

Example of non-hierarchical taxonomy with checkboxes

I'm really not looking for a plugin solution, however code examples from plugins would be fine. When developing sites for client's it is often beneficial to allow them to see the list of pre-established terms for a certain post type. The customer should be allowed to add additional terms, just not additional child terms.


7 Answers 7


I'm not sure, if you already found a solution for this, but when I searched for a similar one yesterday, I found this tutorial on WPtuts very helpful. It uses radio buttons, but you can easily modify it to get it working with checkboxes as well. http://wp.tutsplus.com/tutorials/creative-coding/how-to-use-radio-buttons-with-taxonomies/


Now in 2020, i've found the definitive and simpliest solution:

    register_taxonomy( "my_tax", [ "my_post" ], [
        "meta_box_cb" => "post_categories_meta_box",
    ] );

You can pass the meta_box_cb to change the metabox function. If you use post_categories_meta_box, the non-hierarchy taxonomy will use the hierarchy editor. There is an minor problem here, you still can select the parent category (but it does not set it as an parent category). You can fix this by simply hiding the select input.

  • 1
    Awesome, thanks for sharing. This is by far the most accurate solution
    – geochanto
    Nov 25, 2020 at 3:02
  • 2
    This is the correct answer for the classic editor, but Gutenberg doesn't support the meta_box_cb argument. You can find the open ticket referring to this issue at github.com/WordPress/gutenberg/issues/13816.
    – jg314
    Apr 22, 2022 at 14:33

I got the solution (based on the tutsplus tutorial link above) that deals with actual checkboxes here to work: http://wordpress.org/support/topic/display-tag-admin-box-like-categories-without-hierarchy it ignores the "most used" tab of the metabox that the tutsplus link addresses but personally I'm keeping it simple.

  • 1
    This is really a simple but effective approach. I strongly suggest following this link and taking a look at this solution.
    – Aurelio
    May 30, 2013 at 14:01
  • Its working... Its simple Mar 18, 2015 at 12:07

Pardon my french, but why not use the built in hierarchial=true and after that hide all the Parent dropboxes by using admin css ?

  • This is excellent, eg use #newMYTAX_parent, .taxonomy-MYTAX .term-parent-wrap { display:none; }.
    – bonger
    Feb 18, 2015 at 5:26

I would do that:

$add_action('add_meta_boxes_my_posttype', 'my_add_meta_boxes');

function my_add_meta_boxes ($post) {

    $taxoms = array('my_taxonomy', 'my_second_taxonomy');

    foreach ( get_object_taxonomies( $post ) as $tax_name ) {
        if( !in_array($tax_name, $taxoms) ) continue;

        $taxonomy = get_taxonomy($tax_name);
        if ( ! $taxonomy->show_ui )

        $label = $taxonomy->labels->name;

        if ( !is_taxonomy_hierarchical($tax_name) ) {
            add_meta_box($tax_name . 'div', $label, 'post_categories_meta_box', null, 'side', 'core', array( 'taxonomy' => $tax_name ));
            remove_meta_box('tagsdiv-' . $tax_name, null, 'side');

After, up to you to hide the parent select box of the form


use hierarchy and hide the parent selects, like this:

function hide_taxonomy_parent( $slug ) {
    add_action( 'admin_head', function () use ( $slug ) {
        echo "<style>
            .taxonomy-{$slug} .term-parent-wrap,
            #new{$slug}_parent {
                display: none !important;
                visibility: hidden !important;
    } );

hide_taxonomy_parent( 'brand' );

My solution:

function custom_register_taxonomy_args( $args, $name, $object_type ) {
    global $pagenow;

    if ( $name == 'product_cat' && ( $pagenow == 'post-new.php' || $pagenow == 'post.php' ) ) {
        $args['hierarchical'] = true;

    return $args;
add_filter( 'register_taxonomy_args', 'custom_register_taxonomy_args', 10, 6 );
  • This is not what the questioner wanted. As this will make that particular taxonomy behave like a hierarchical taxonomy & it'll still have some glitches when user tries to save a new taxonomy with hierarchy.
    – Fayaz
    Mar 16, 2017 at 7:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.