The HTML <meta> element represents metadata that cannot be represented by other HTML meta-related elements, like <base>, <link>, <script>, <style> or <title>.

Content categories Metadata content. If the itemprop attribute is present: flow content, phrasing content.
Permitted content None, it is an empty element.
Tag omission As it is a void element, the start tag must be present and the end tag must not be present.
Permitted parents <meta charset>, <meta http-equiv>: a <head> element. If the http-equiv is not an encoding declaration, it can also be inside a <noscript> element, itself inside a <head> element.
Permitted ARIA roles None
DOM interface HTMLMetaElement

Attributes

This element includes the global attributes.

Note: the global attribute name has a specific meaning for the <meta> element, and the itemprop attribute must not be set on the same <meta> element that has any existing name, http-equiv or charset attributes.

charset
Declares the page's character encoding. This attribute must contain a standard IANA MIME name for character encodings. Although the standard doesn't request a specific encoding, it suggests…
  • Authors are encouraged to use UTF-8.
  • Authors should not use ASCII-incompatible encodings to avoid security risk: browsers not supporting them may interpret harmless content as HTML. This happens with at least JIS_C6226-1983, JIS_X0212-1990, HZ-GB-2312, JOHAB, the ISO-2022 family, and the EBCDIC family. (ASCII-incompatible encodings are those that don't map the 8-bit code points 0x20 to 0x7E to the 0x0020 to 0x007E Unicode code points)
  • Authors must not use CESU-8, UTF-7, BOCU-1 and SCSU, because cross-site scripting attacks with these encodings have been demonstrated.
  • Authors should not use UTF-32 because not all HTML5 encoding algorithms can distinguish it from UTF-16.
Notes:
  • The declared character encoding must match the one the page was saved with, to avoid garbled characters and security holes.
  • The <meta> element declaring the encoding must be inside the <head> element and within the first 1024 bytes of the HTML, as some browsers only look at those bytes before choosing an encoding.
  • This <meta> element is only one part of the algorithm to determine a page's character set. The Content-Type header and any Byte-Order Marks override this element.
  • It is strongly recommended to define the character encoding. If a page's encoding is undefined, cross-scripting techniques are possible, such as the UTF-7 fallback cross-scripting technique.
  • The <meta> element with a charset attribute is a synonym for the pre-HTML5 <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=IANAcharset">, where IANAcharset contains the value of the equivalent charset attribute. This syntax is still allowed, although no longer recommended.
content
This attribute contains the value for the http-equiv or name attribute, depending on which was used.
http-equiv
This attribute can contain the name of an HTTP header, hence the attribute name http-equivalent. It defines an instruction that can alter server and user-agent behavior. The value of the instruction is defined inside the content attribute, and can be one of the following:
"content-language"
Defines the default language of the page. It can be overridden by the lang attribute on any element.
Do not use this value, as it is obsolete. Prefer the lang attribute on the <html> element.
"content-security-policy"
Allows page authors to define a content policy for the current page. Content policies mostly specify allowed server origins and script endpoints, which helps guard against cross-site scripting attacks.
"content-type"
Defines the MIME type of the document, followed by its character encoding. It follows the same syntax as the HTTP content-type entity-header field, but as it is inside an HTML page, most values other than text/html are impossible. Therefore the valid syntax for its content is the string 'text/html' followed by a character set with the following syntax: '; charset=IANAcharset', where IANAcharset is the preferred MIME name for a character set as defined by the IANA.
Usage note:
  • Do not use this value, as it is obsolete. Prefer the charset attribute on the <meta> element.
  • As <meta> can't change documents' types in XHTML or HTML5's XHTML serialization, never set the MIME type to an XHTML MIME type with <meta>.
"refresh"
This instruction specifies:
  • The number of seconds until the page should be reloaded, if the content attribute contains only a positive integer.
  • The number of seconds until the page should redirect to another, if the content attribute contains a positive integer followed by the string ';url=', then a valid URL.
"set-cookie"
Defines a cookie for the page. Its content must follow the syntax defined in the IETF HTTP Cookie Specification.
Note: Do not use this instruction, as it is obsolete. Use the HTTP header Set-Cookie instead.
name

This attribute defines the name of a piece of document-level metadata. It should not be set if one of the attributes itemprop, http-equiv or charset is also set.

This metadata name is associated with the value contained by the content attribute. The possible values for the name attribute are:

  • application-name defines the name of the application running in the web page.
    Note:
    • Browsers may use this to identify the application. It is different from the <title> element, which usually contain the application name, but may also contain information like the document name or a status.
    • Simple web pages shouldn't define an application-name.
  • author defines the name of the document's author.
  • description contains a short and accurate summary of the content of the page. Several browsers, like Firefox and Opera, use this as the default description of bookmarked pages.
  • generator contains the identifier of the software that generated the page.
  • keywords contains words relevant to the page's content, separated by commas.
  • referrer controls the Referer HTTP header attached to requests sent from the document:
    Values for the content attribute of <meta name="referrer">
    no-referrer Do not send a HTTP Referer header.
    origin Send the origin of the document.
    no-referrer-when-downgrade Send the origin as referrer to URLs as secure as the current page, (https→https), but don't send a referrer to less secure URLs (https→http). This is the default behavior.
    origin-when-crossorigin Send the full URL (stripped of parameters) for same-origin requests, but only send the origin for other cases.
    unsafe-URL Send the full URL (stripped of parameters) for same-origin or cross-origin requests.
    • Some browsers support the deprecated values always, default, and never for referrer.
    • Dynamically inserting <meta name="referrer"> (with document.write or appendChild) makes referrer behavior unpredictable.
    • When several conflicting policies are defined, the no-referrer policy is applied.

    The attribute may also have a value taken from the extended list defined on WHATWG Wiki MetaExtensions page. Although none have been formally accepted yet, a few commonly used names are:

    • creator defines the name of the creator of the document, such as an organization or institution. If there are more than one, several <meta> elements should be used.
    • googlebot, a synonym of robots, but is only followed by Googlebot, the indexing crawler for Google.
    • publisher defines the name of the document's publisher.
    • robots defines the behavior that cooperative crawlers, or "robots", should use with the page. It is a comma-separated list of the values below:
      Values for the content of <meta name="robots">
      Value Description Used by
      index Allows the robot to index the page (default). All
      noindex Requests the robot to not index the page. All
      follow Allows the robot to follow the links on the page (default). All
      nofollow Requests the robot to not follow the links on the page. All
      none Equivalent to noindex, nofollow Google
      noodp Prevents using the Open Directory Project description, if any, as the page description in search engine results.

      Google, Yahoo, Bing

      noarchive Requests the search engine not cache the page content. Google, Yahoo, Bing
      nosnippet Prevents displaying any description of the page in search engine results. Google, Bing
      noimageindex Requests this page not appear as the referring page of an indexed image. Google
      nocache Synonym of noarchive. Bing
      Notes:
      • Only cooperative robots follow these rules. Do not expect to prevent e-mail harvesters with them.
      • The robot still needs to access the page in order to read these rules. To prevent bandwidth consumption, use a robots.txt file.
      • If you want to remove a page, noindex will work, but only after the robot visits the page again. Ensure that the robots.txt file doesn't preventing revisits. Some search engines have developer's tools, allowing quick removal of pages.
      • Some values are mutually exclusive, like index and noindex, or follow and nofollow. In these cases the robot's behavior is undefined and may vary between them.
      • Some crawler robots, like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, support the same values for the HTTP header X-Robot-Tags; this allows non-HTML documents like images to use these rules.
    • slurp, a synonym of robots, but only for Slurp, the crawler for Yahoo Search.

    Finally, a few names are in common use, though not in the process of being standardized:

    • viewport, which gives hints about the size of the initial size of the viewport. Used by mobile devices only.
      Values for the content of <meta name="viewport">
      Value Possible subvalues Description
      width A positive integer number, or the text device-width Defines the pixel width of the viewport, or allows the viewport to adapt to the device's screen width.
      height A positive integer, or the text device-height Defines the height of the viewport. Not used by any browser.
      initial-scale A positive number between 0.0 and 10.0 Defines the ratio between the device width (device-width in portrait mode or device-height in landscape mode) and the viewport size.
      maximum-scale A positive number between 0.0 and 10.0 Defines the maximum amount to zoom in. It must be greater or equal to the minimum-scale or the behavior is undefined. Browser settings can ignore this rule, and iOS10+ ignores it by default.
      minimum-scale A positive number between 0.0 and 10.0 Defines the minimum zoom level. It must be smaller or equal to the maximum-scale or the behavior is undefined. Browser settings can ignore this rule, and iOS10+ ignores it by default.
      user-scalable yes or no If set to no, the user is not able to zoom in the webpage. The default is yes. Browser settings can ignore this rule, and iOS10+ ignores it by default.
      Specification Status Comment
      CSS Device Adaptation
      The definition of '<meta name="viewport">' in that specification.
      Working Draft Non-normatively describes the Viewport META element
      See also: @viewport
      Notes:
      • Though unstandardized, this declaration is respected by most mobile browsers due to de-facto dominance.
      • The default values may vary between devices and browsers.
      • To learn about this declaration in Firefox for Mobile, see this article.
scheme
This attribute defines the scheme in which metadata is described. A scheme is a context leading to the correct interpretations of the content value, like a format.
Notes: Do not use this value, as it is obsolete. There is no replacement as there was no real usage for it.

Notes

Depending on the attributes set, the kind of metadata can be one of the following:

  • If name is set, it is document-level metadata, applying to the whole page.
  • If http-equiv is set, it is a pragma directive — information normally given by the web server about how the web page is served.
  • If charset is set, it is a charset declaration — the character encoding used by the webpage.
  • If itemprop is set, it is user-defined metadata — transparent for the user-agent as the semantics of the metadata is user-specific.

Examples

<meta charset="utf-8">

<!-- Redirect page after 3 seconds -->
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="3;url=https://www.mozilla.org/">

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
Referrer Policy
The definition of '<meta name="referrer">' in that specification.
Working Draft Defines values and semantics of <meta name="referrer">.
WHATWG HTML Living Standard
The definition of '<meta>' in that specification.
Living Standard Added itemprop attribute
HTML5
The definition of '<meta>' in that specification.
Recommendation Added charset attribute
HTML 4.01 Specification
The definition of '<meta>' in that specification.
Recommendation  

Browser compatibility

Feature Chrome Edge Firefox (Gecko) Internet Explorer Opera Safari
Basic support (Yes) (Yes) 1.0 (1.7 or earlier) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes)
name="referrer" 17 No support 36.0 (36.0) [1] ? ? ?
Constrained to values listed under referrer (as specified in the spec.) 46.0 No support        
Feature Android Android Webview Edge Firefox Mobile (Gecko) IE Mobile Opera Mobile Safari Mobile Chrome for Android
Basic support (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) 1.0 (1.0) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes)
name="referrer" ? (Yes) No support 36.0 (36.0) [1] ? ? ? (Yes)
Constrained to values listed under referrer (as specified in the spec.) No support 46.0 No support ? ? ? ? 46.0

[1] The referrer value wasn't taken into account when navigation was happening via the context menu or middle click until Firefox 39.

See also