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jQuery Select Dropdowns: Common Patterns

Selecting an option by its text label, getting the label for a currently selected option, selecting an option programmatically and more.

If you’re working with jQuery and you want to select an <option> based on it’s text value, rather than it’s [value] attribute you can use the selector pattern: option[text="Option A"], where Option A is the text label of the option you need to work with.


As an example, let’s say that you’re working with the following dropdown <select> field:

<label for="colors">What's your favorite color?</label>
<select name="colors" id="colors">
  <option value="1">Blue</option>
  <option value="2">Red</option>
  <option value="3">Green</option>
  <option value="4">Yellow</option>
  <option value="5">Black</option>


To select an option based on it’s text color value, not it’s numbered value, you would use this jQuery selector:

const option = $("select#colors option:contains('Red')");

If you need to check if it exists, you can use this approach:

if ( option.length ) {
  console.log('An option with the text value of "Red" exists!');

If you need to capture the value from this <option>:

const value = option.val();

If you wanted to find the text label or value of the currently selected option for a dropdown <select>:

const selected = $("select#colors option:selected");
const text = selected.text();
const value = selected.val();

If you want to select a specific option in a <select> element:

const option = $("select#colors option:contains('Red')");
option.prop('selected', true);


This goes beyond the original question, but I’ve found that when working with select elements and jQuery I often find myself using many of these approaches. Hopefully it provides a good resource for those still working with jQuery in a modern JavaScript environment. Regardless of what others say, it’s still a valuable tool for the right use cases.

If you’re still working with jQuery, which many websites still actively use despite it’s age, then this handy tip should help you select a specific <option> from a dropdown <select> based on it’s text label, opposed to it’s value.

Meet the Author

Kevin Leary, WordPress Consultant

I'm a freelance web developer and WordPress consultant in Boston, MA with 15 years of experience building websites and applications. View a portfolio of my work or request an estimate for your next project.