How do I select text nodes with jQuery?

jQuery doesn’t have a convenient function for this. You need to combine contents(), which will give just child nodes but includes text nodes, with find(), which gives all descendant elements but no text nodes. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

var getTextNodesIn = function(el) {
    return $(el).find(":not(iframe)").addBack().contents().filter(function() {
        return this.nodeType == 3;


Note: If you’re using jQuery 1.7 or earlier, the code above will not work. To fix this, replace addBack() with andSelf(). andSelf() is deprecated in favour of addBack() from 1.8 onwards.

This is somewhat inefficient compared to pure DOM methods and has to include an ugly workaround for jQuery’s overloading of its contents() function (thanks to @rabidsnail in the comments for pointing that out), so here is non-jQuery solution using a simple recursive function. The includeWhitespaceNodes parameter controls whether or not whitespace text nodes are included in the output (in jQuery they are automatically filtered out).

Update: Fixed bug when includeWhitespaceNodes is falsy.

function getTextNodesIn(node, includeWhitespaceNodes) {
    var textNodes = [], nonWhitespaceMatcher = /\S/;

    function getTextNodes(node) {
        if (node.nodeType == 3) {
            if (includeWhitespaceNodes || nonWhitespaceMatcher.test(node.nodeValue)) {
        } else {
            for (var i = 0, len = node.childNodes.length; i < len; ++i) {

    return textNodes;


Leave a Comment