I don't want to have the parent menu items of my site's nav menus linking to a separate page. For one thing I don't want to have a superfluous page. For another these links hobble site navigation for mobile users who can't "hover" over a link (to bring up the child items).

The best solution would be to disable the parent menu item links. But how do I do that, especially now that with WordPress 3.5 the Disable Parent Menu Item plugin has stopped working?

One possible solution is here.

5 Answers 5


Do not create fake URLs (#). This would be very bad for users with a screen reader: the are using a list of available links to browse your site. The same is true for javascript: links, they are not exactly elegant markup anyway.

You need two steps:

  1. Mark the items with children before the walker starts.
  2. Replace the markup for the top parents.

I will use an empty <a> element here to make it easy to get the cursor. You will probably need something like this in your stylesheet:

.menu > .has-children {
    cursor: pointer;

The filter to mark parent items is taken from this answer. The second function just checks for that property and it tests if the item is itself not a child item.

add_filter( 'wp_nav_menu_objects',      't5_add_has_children_to_nav_items' );
add_filter( 'walker_nav_menu_start_el', 't5_unlink_parent_item', 10, 4 );

 * Add aproperty 'has_children' to menu items
 * @wp-hook wp_nav_menu_objects
 * @param   array $items
 * @return  array
function t5_add_has_children_to_nav_items( $items )
    $parents = wp_list_pluck( $items, 'menu_item_parent' );
    $out     = array ();

    foreach ( $items as $item )
        in_array( $item->ID, $parents ) && $item->has_children = TRUE;
        $out[] = $item;
    return $items;
 * Replace top parent element markup.
 * @wp-hook walker_nav_menu_start_el
 * @param   string $item_output
 * @param   object $item
 * @param   int    $depth
 * @param   object $args
 * @return  string
function t5_unlink_parent_item( $item_output, $item, $depth, $args )
    // not first level parent item
    if ( empty ( $item->has_children ) or 0 != $item->menu_item_parent )
        return $item_output;

    $title = apply_filters(
    $id = apply_filters(
        'menu-item-'. $item->ID,
        $item, $args
    $id = $id ? ' id="' . esc_attr( $id ) . '"' : '';

    $classes = empty( $item->classes ) ? array() : (array) $item->classes;
    $classes[] = 'menu-item-' . $item->ID;
    $classes[] = 'has-children';
    $class_names = join(
        ' ',
            array_filter( $classes ),
    $class_names = $class_names
        ? ' class="' . esc_attr( $class_names ) . '"'
        : '';

    return "<li$id>$args->before<a class='menu-item has-children'>$title</a>$args->after";
  • This is a better answer than mine but it indicates a fundamental flaw in WordPress menus that this much code is needed to achieve what should be a simple thing :)
    – JCL1178
    Jan 18, 2013 at 6:23
  • @JCL1178 I guess not many authors use a href-less top level. And most custom themes use a custom walker anyway. I see the native implementation as a starting guide that works in most cases but isn’t forced onto the developer.
    – fuxia
    Jan 18, 2013 at 6:27
  • Thanks for your lengthy reply, toscho. You put a lot of work into it I can see. Actually, the answer in the link I posted says to remove the hash symbol, so there's no hash symbol in the link that appears in the menu: it becomes a link without an href, i.e., no URL, fake or otherwise. Since your solution seems to depend on evacuating the href as well, I wonder how it is better for screen-readers. Is your walker worthwhile?
    – JohnK
    Mar 24, 2013 at 1:44
  • @JohnK The plugin from that thread is probably the worst possible attempt to solve that issue. You will get conflicts with other plugins with that, because it calls wp_print_scripts a second time. This should never have passed the plugin review … Anyway, use the PHP solution here; it is free of side effects, except when you use a plugin that comes with its own custom walker.
    – fuxia
    Mar 24, 2013 at 1:57
  • The link wasn't to the plug-in, toscho, but to a simple, 'by-hand' way to replace it in making a non-clickable menu item. Seems to produce the same effect as your code. I'd like to give you credit for your work, but I can only choose yours as the correct answer if you somehow justify its superiority over the simple way.
    – JohnK
    Mar 24, 2013 at 2:25

I would simply create custom menu items with a javascript:void(0) as the href whenever a parent item is needed.

  • Good answer, and a much better solution than using hash symbol as the link as indicated in the posters link.
    – gteh
    Jan 18, 2013 at 5:38
  • Actually if you read carefully, that solution says to remove the hash symbol, so there's no hash symbol in the link.
    – JohnK
    Mar 24, 2013 at 1:31
  • But how? can you give a example?
    – 244boy
    Nov 26, 2019 at 10:05

Works with WordPress 3.5:

  1. Add a Link entry with the name you want and a # URL
  2. Edit the menu entry you just created and remove the #

You have to do both steps, as you can't add a menu entry with an empty URL.

  • Can you explain more?
    – 244boy
    Nov 26, 2019 at 9:50

A little late but for future use. You can create a custom link for the parent. When you add it you have to add a #, but once it's added you can remove it which disables the link.


To eliminate the active "hover" cursor:

Theme Options > Drop down menu > Make parent menu items clickable : disable

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