The HTML Bidirectional Isolate element (<bdi>) tells the browser's bidirectional algorithm to treat the text it contains in isolation from its surrounding text. It's particularly useful when a website dynamically inserts some text and doesn't know the directionality of the text being inserted.

Bidirectional text is text that may contain both sequences of characters that are arranged left-to-right (LTR) and sequences of characters that are arranged right-to-left (RTL), such as an Arabic quotation embedded in an English string. Browsers implement the Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm to handle this. In this algorithm, characters are given an implicit directionality: for example, Latin characters are treated as LTR while Arabic characters are treated as RTL. Some other characters (such as spaces and some punctuation) are treated as neutral and are assigned directionality based on that of their surrounding characters.

Usually the bidirectional algorithm will do the right thing without the author having to provide any special markup but, occasionally, the algorithm needs help. That's where <bdi> comes in.

The <bdi> element is used to wrap a span of text and instructs the bidirectional algorithm to treat this text in isolation from its surroundings. This works in two ways:

  • The directionality of text embedded in <bdi> does not influence the directionality of the surrounding text.
  • The directionality of text embedded in <bdi> is not influenced by the directionality of the surrounding text.

For example, consider some text like:

EMBEDDED-TEXT - 1st place

If EMBEDDED-TEXT is LTR, this works fine. But if EMBEDDED-TEXT is RTL, then - 1 will be treated as RTL text (because it consists of neutral and weak characters). The result will be garbled:

1 - EMBEDDED-TEXTst place

If you know the directionality of EMBEDDED-TEXT in advance, you can fix this problem by wrapping EMBEDDED-TEXT in a <span> with the dir attribute set to the known directionality. But if you don't know the directionality - for example because EMBEDDED-TEXT is being read from a database or entered by the user - you should use <bdi> to prevent the directionality of EMBEDDED-TEXT from affecting its surroundings.

Though the same visual effect can be achieved using the CSS rule unicode-bidi: isolate on a <span> or another text-formatting element, HTML authors should not use this approach because it is not semantic and browsers are allowed to ignore CSS styling.

Embedding the characters in <span dir="auto"> has the same effect as using <bdi>, but its semantics are less clear.

Content categories Flow content, phrasing content, palpable content.
Permitted content Phrasing content.
Tag omission None, both the starting and ending tag are mandatory.
Permitted parents Any element that accepts phrasing content.
Permitted ARIA roles Any
DOM interface HTMLElement


Like all other HTML elements, this element supports the global attributes, except that the dir attribute behaves differently than normal: it defaults to auto, meaning its value is never inherited from the parent element. This means that unless you specify a value of either "rtl" or "ltr" for dir, the user agent will determine the correct directionality to use based on the contents of the <bdi>.


Suppose you want to list the winners of a competition:

 <li><span class="name">Henrietta Boffin</span> - 1st place</li>
 <li><span class="name">Jerry Cruncher</span> - 2nd place</li>

This works fine as long as the names are LTR, but when you insert an RTL name, then the "- 1", which consists of characters with neutral or weak directionality, will adopt the directionality of the RTL text, and the result will be garbled:

 <li><span class="name">اَلأَعْشَى</span> - 1st place</li>
 <li><span class="name">Jerry Cruncher</span> - 2nd place</li>

You can use <bdi> to instruct the browser to treat the name in isolation from its embedding context:

 <li><bdi class="name">اَلأَعْشَى</bdi> - 1st place</li>
 <li><bdi class="name">Jerry Cruncher</bdi> - 2nd place</li>


Browser compatibilityUpdate compatibility data on GitHub

Chrome Edge Firefox Internet Explorer Opera Safari
Basic support 16 No 10 No No No
Android webview Chrome for Android Edge Mobile Firefox for Android Opera for Android iOS Safari Samsung Internet
Basic support No No No 10 No No No

See also

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