HTML <meta> Tag

The HTML <meta> tag represents metadata for an HTML document.

Metadata can include document decription, keywords, author etc. It can also be used to refresh the page or set cookies.

Syntax

The <meta> tag is written as <meta> (no end tag) with exactly one of the name, http-equiv, and charset, attributes specified.

If either name or http-equiv is specified, then the content attribute must also be specified. Otherwise, it must be omitted.

Like this:

<meta name="" content="">

Or this:

<meta http-equiv="" content="">

The <meta> tag is placed between the start and end <head> tags.

Like this:

<html>
	<head>
		<title>Title...</title>
		<meta name="" content="">
	</head>
	<body>
		Content...
	</body>
</html>

Examples

Character Encoding

You can use the <meta> tag to declare the character encoding of the document. In this example, we declare the document as using UTF-8.

<meta charset="utf-8">

Keywords & Description

You can use the <meta> tag to specify keywords for the document and/or a description.

Historically, search engines have used these elements to assist with their search results. The keywords value can provide keywords that are relevant to the article (even if they don't appear in the article), and can even be used to provide common misspellings. The description value can provide a description of the article. This is often displayed outside of the context of the article (such as in a search results page, email, etc) so it should provide a good, concise, overview of what the user can expect from the document.

Some search engines have disclosed that they now ignore these keywords in their algorithms. Despite this, keywords could potentially be used to good effect within a proprietary site-search function or other site functionality.

<meta 
	name="keywords" 
	content="apple,apples,growing,cooking,nutrition">
<meta 
	name="description" 
	content="All about apples. How to grow your own apples and then eat them.">

Author

You can use the <meta> tag to specify the author of the document.

<meta name="author" content="Peter Griffin">

Refresh Same Page

You can use the <meta> tag to refresh the page at regular intervals.

The following code will refresh a page every 5 minutes.

<meta http-equiv="Refresh" content="500">

Refresh to New Page

The <iframe> element below uses the <meta> tag to refresh to a new page in 5 seconds.

To see this effect you might need to refresh this page.

Attributes

Attributes can be added to an HTML element to provide more information about how the element should appear or behave.

There are 3 kinds of attributes that you can add to your HTML tags: Element-specific, global, and event handler content attributes.

The <meta> element accepts the following attributes.

Element-Specific Attributes

This table shows the attributes that are specific to the <meta> tag/element.

AttributeDescription
NameName for the property. Can be anything, however, HTML5 does specify some standard metadata names. Standard HTML5 metadata names include:
NameDescription
application-nameMust be a short free-form string giving the name of the Web application that the page represents. If the page is not a Web application, the application-name metadata name must not be used. There must not be more than one meta element with its name attribute set to the value application-name per document. Browsers/user agents may use the application name in UI in preference to the page's title, since the title might include status messages and the like relevant to the status of the page at a particular moment in time instead of just being the name of the application.
authorFree-form string giving the name of one of the page's authors.
descriptionFree-form string that describes the page. The value must be appropriate for use in a directory of pages, e.g. in a search engine. There must not be more than one meta element with its name attribute set to the value description per document.
generatorFree-form string that identifies one of the software packages used to generate the document. This value must not be used on hand-authored pages.
keywordsThe value must be a set of comma-separated tokens, each of which is a keyword relevant to the page. For example, keywords for the current page could include "html5 meta tag, element, metadata, meta data, keyword, keywords, description, generator, application-name, author"
contentSpecifies the property's value.
charsetSpecifies the character encoding used by the document. This is called a character encoding declaration.
http-equivUsed for http response message headers. For example http-equiv can be used to periodically refresh the page, redirect to another page, etc.

Possible values include:

  • content-language
  • content-type
  • default-style
  • refresh

Global Attributes

The following attributes are standard across all HTML5 elements. Therefore, you can use these attributes with the <meta> tag , as well as with all other HTML tags.

  • accesskey
  • class
  • contenteditable
  • contextmenu
  • dir
  • draggable
  • dropzone
  • hidden
  • id
  • inert
  • itemid
  • itemprop
  • itemref
  • itemscope
  • itemtype
  • lang
  • spellcheck
  • style
  • tabindex
  • title
  • translate

For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 global attributes.

Event Handler Content Attributes

Event handler content attributes enable you to invoke a script from within your HTML. The script is invoked when a certain "event" occurs. Each event handler content attribute deals with a different event.

Below are the standard HTML5 event handler content attributes.

Again, you can use any of these with the <meta> element, as well as any other HTML5 element.

  • onabort
  • oncancel
  • onblur
  • oncanplay
  • oncanplaythrough
  • onchange
  • onclick
  • oncontextmenu
  • ondblclick
  • ondrag
  • ondragend
  • ondragenter
  • ondragexit
  • ondragleave
  • ondragover
  • ondragstart
  • ondrop
  • ondurationchange
  • onemptied
  • onended
  • onerror
  • onfocus
  • onformchange
  • onforminput
  • oninput
  • oninvalid
  • onkeydown
  • onkeypress
  • onkeyup
  • onload
  • onloadeddata
  • onloadedmetadata
  • onloadstart
  • onmousedown
  • onmousemove
  • onmouseout
  • onmouseover
  • onmouseup
  • onmousewheel
  • onpause
  • onplay
  • onplaying
  • onprogress
  • onratechange
  • onreadystatechange
  • onscroll
  • onseeked
  • onseeking
  • onselect
  • onshow
  • onstalled
  • onsubmit
  • onsuspend
  • ontimeupdate
  • onvolumechange
  • onwaiting

For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 event handler content attributes.

Differences Between HTML 4 & HTML 5

HTML5 does not support the scheme attribute (HTML 4 supported it).

HTML5 introduced the charset attribute.

To see more detail on the two versions see HTML5 <meta> Tag and HTML4 <meta> Tag. Also check out the links to the official specifications below.

Template

Here's a template for the <meta> tag with all available attributes for the tag (based on HTML5). These are grouped into attribute types, each type separated by a space. In many cases, you will probably only need one or two (if any) attributes. Simply remove the attributes you don't need.

For more information on attributes for this tag, see HTML5 <meta> Tag and HTML4 <meta> Tag.

<meta  
 name=""
 http-equiv=""
 content=""
 charset=""
 
 accesskey=""
 class=""
 contenteditable=""
 contextmenu=""
 dir=""
 draggable=""
 dropzone=""
 hidden=""
 id=""
 itemid=""
 itemprop=""
 itemref=""
 itemscope=""
 itemtype=""
 lang=""
 spellcheck=""
 style=""
 tabindex=""
 title=""
 translate=""

 onabort=""
 onautocomplete=""
 onautocompleteerror=""
 onblur=""
 oncancel=""
 oncanplay=""
 oncanplaythrough=""
 onchange=""
 onclick=""
 onclose=""
 oncontextmenu=""
 oncuechange=""
 ondblclick=""
 ondrag=""
 ondragend=""
 ondragenter=""
 ondragexit=""
 ondragleave=""
 ondragover=""
 ondragstart=""
 ondrop=""
 ondurationchange=""
 onemptied=""
 onended=""
 onerror=""
 onfocus=""
 oninput=""
 oninvalid=""
 onkeydown=""
 onkeypress=""
 onkeyup=""
 onload=""
 onloadeddata=""
 onloadedmetadata=""
 onloadstart=""
 onmousedown=""
 onmouseenter=""
 onmouseleave=""
 onmousemove=""
 onmouseout=""
 onmouseover=""
 onmouseup=""
 onmousewheel=""
 onpause=""
 onplay=""
 onplaying=""
 onprogress=""
 onratechange=""
 onreset=""
 onresize=""
 onscroll=""
 onseeked=""
 onseeking=""
 onselect=""
 onshow=""
 onsort=""
 onstalled=""
 onsubmit=""
 onsuspend=""
 ontimeupdate=""
 ontoggle=""
 onvolumechange=""
 onwaiting=""
	>

Tag Details

For more details about the <meta> tag, see HTML5 <meta> Tag and HTML4 <meta> Tag.

Specifications

Here are the official specifications for the <meta> element.

What's the Difference?

W3C creates "snapshot" specifications that don't change once defined. So the HTML5 specification won't change once it becomes an official recommendation. WHATWG on the other hand, develops a "living standard" that is updated on a regular basis. In general, you will probably find that the HTML living standard will be more closely aligned to the current W3C draft than to the HTML5 specification.