Customize date and time format

Customizing the Time and Date Format

Certain WordPress tag functions are used to display or return date and time information; the_date() and the_time() are examples of this.

By default, these functions will display or return date and time in format as it is set in Administration > Settings > General. This is the place where customizing format for Date and Time will take effect throughout the whole WordPress installation.

Formatting Date and Time

Notice the string of characters next to each Date and Time formatting in screenshot. This string is called a format string. Each letter represents specific part of Date or Time.

For example, the format string:

l, F j, Y

creates a date that look like this (note that commas are read literally):

Friday, September 24, 2004

Here is what each format character in the string above represents:

  • l = Full name for day of the week (lower-case L).
  • F = Full name for the month.
  • j = The day of the month.
  • Y = The year in 4 digits. (lower-case y gives the year’s last 2 digits)

Format characters are standardized and globally used in PHP programming language. As WordPress is written in PHP programming language you can use the table of Date and Time format characters directly from the PHP website.

Here is a table of some of the more useful items found there:

Day of Month
d Numeric, with leading zeros 01–31
j Numeric, without leading zeros 1–31
S The English suffix for the day of the month st, nd or th in the 1st, 2nd or 15th.
l Full name  (lowercase ‘L’) Sunday – Saturday
D Three letter name Mon – Sun
m Numeric, with leading zeros 01–12
n Numeric, without leading zeros 1–12
F Textual full January – December
M Textual three letters Jan – Dec
Y Numeric, 4 digits Eg., 1999, 2003
y Numeric, 2 digits Eg., 99, 03
a Lowercase am, pm
A Uppercase AM, PM
g Hour, 12-hour, without leading zeros 1–12
h Hour, 12-hour, with leading zeros 01–12
G Hour, 24-hour, without leading zeros 0-23
H Hour, 24-hour, with leading zeros 00-23
i Minutes, with leading zeros 00-59
s Seconds, with leading zeros 00-59
T Timezone abbreviation Eg., EST, MDT …
Full Date/Time
c ISO 8601 2004-02-12T15:19:21+00:00
r RFC 2822 Thu, 21 Dec 2000 16:01:07 +0200
U Unix timestamp (seconds since Unix Epoch) 1455880176

Format String Examples

Here are some examples of date format with the result output.

  • F j, Y g:i a – November 6, 2010 12:50 am
  • F j, Y – November 6, 2010
  • F, Y – November, 2010
  • g:i a – 12:50 am
  • g:i:s a – 12:50:48 am
  • l, F jS, Y – Saturday, November 6th, 2010
  • M j, Y @ G:i – Nov 6, 2010 @ 0:50
  • Y/m/d \a\t g:i A – 2010/11/06 at 12:50 AM
  • Y/m/d \a\t g:ia – 2010/11/06 at 12:50am
  • Y/m/d g:i:s A – 2010/11/06 12:50:48 AM
  • Y/m/d – 2010/11/06

Overriding General Settings Formatting

Functions for Time and Date accept format string as a parameter in order to override default Date and Time formatting for certain places in theme or plugin files. Just the same as in General Settings, this format string is a template of characters where each character represents specific part of Date or Time.

Inside the template file, setting the Date and Time format string as a parameter for the_time() template tag, would look something like this:

Posted on <?php the_time( 'l, F jS, Y' ); ?>.

Which will render on the frontend of your site as following:

Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2004.


To localize Date and Time, use the wp_date() function. The wp_date() function basically behaves like the PHP date() function, except that it also translates things like month names and weekdays and similar into the current locale for the site. You can replace a call to date() with a call to wp_date(), using the same arguments.

$date = wp_date( 'F j, Y' );
$time = wp_date( 'g:i a' );

Alternatively, you can wrap your predefined format in __() or _e() in order to allow translators to adjust the Date and Time to the proper local format. If you do so, then you should also include a translator comment, to let the translators know what the date format is referring to and where it is used, so they can convert it accurately.

__( 'Y/m/d g:i:s a', 'textdomain' );


Some letters do not have an associated format in the PHP date function. For example x passed in the format string will currently return a literal x. However, this can change at some point in the future and x may have a format associated with it.

This is why you should always escape literal character in a date formatted string with \. Note that, in following example, every letter of word of is escaped.

wp_date( __( 'l jS \o\f F Y', 'textdomain' ) );

This example will render as following on the frontend of your site:

Saturday 25th of February 2017

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