get opening tag including attributes - outerHTML without innerHTML

I would like to retrieve a certain tag element with its attributes from the DOM. For example, from

<a href="#" class="class">
  link text

I want to get <a href="#" class="class">, optionally with a closing </a>, either as a string or some other object. In my opinion, this would be similar to retrieving the .outerHTML without the .innerHTML.

Finally, I need this to wrap some other elements via jQuery. I tried

var elem = $('#some-element').get(0);

but .get() returns the DOM element including its content. Also

var elem = $('#some-element').get(0);

fails as elem.attributes returns a NamedNodeMap which does not work with jQuery's attr() and I was not able to convert it. Admitted that the above examples are not very senseful as they copy also the element's no-longer-unique ID. But is there any easy way? Thanks alot.

var wrapper = $('.class').clone().attr('id','').empty();
  • You might want to change the selector to more exactly match the <a> element you're looking for.
  • clone() creates a new copy of the matched element(s), optionally copying event handlers too.
  • I used attr to clear the element's ID so that we don't duplicate IDs.
  • empty() removes all child nodes (the 'innerHTML').

For future Googlers, there is a way to do this without jQuery:

tag = elem.outerHTML.slice(0, elem.outerHTML.indexOf(elem.innerHTML));

Since outerHTML contains the opening tag followed by a mirror of what innerHTML contains, we can substring the outerHTML from 0 (the beginning of the opening tag) to where the innerHTML begins (end of opening tag), and since innerHTML is a mirror of outerHTML, except for the opening tag, only the opening tag will be left!

This one works with <br> tags, <meta> tags, and other empty tags:

tag = elem.innerHTML ? elem.outerHTML.slice(0,elem.outerHTML.indexOf(elem.innerHTML)) : elem.outerHTML;

Because innerHTML would be empty in self-closing tags, and indexOf('') always returns 0, the above modification checks for the presence of innerHTML first.

Here is my solution:

opentag=elem.outerHTML.slice(0, elem.outerHTML.length-elem.innerHTML.length-elem.tagName.length-3);

I suppose, that close tag is of the form: "</"+elem.tagName+">".

Unfortunately, @AaronGillion's answer isn't reliable as I said in a comment. Thank @sus. I recommend his/her way with a little change to support <self-closing tags />:

function getOpenTag(element: HTMLElement): string {
    const outerHtml = element.outerHTML;
    const len = outerHtml.length;

    const openTagLength = outerHtml[len - 2] === '/' ? // Is self-closing tag?
            len :
            len - element.innerHTML.length - (element.tagName.length + 3);
    // As @sus said, (element.tagName.length + 3) is the length of closing tag. It's always `</${tagName}>`. Correct?

    return outerHtml.slice(0, openTagLength);

The code is in Typescript. Remve types (HTMLElement and number) if you want pure Javascript.

Here's a solution I've used:

const wrap = document.createElement('div')
const openingTag = wrap.innerHTML.split('>')[0] + '>'

This can be done without any String manipulation.

Instead, you can use the element's internals and build the string yourself from there:

function getTagHTML(el) {
  if (!el instanceof HTMLElement) return null;
  let result = `<${el.tagName.toLowerCase()}`;
  for (const attribute in el.attributes) {
    if (el.attributes[attribute].nodeValue) 
      result += ` ${el.attributes[attribute].name}="${el.attributes[attribute].nodeValue.replace(/"/g, "&quot;")}"`
  result += `></${el.tagName.toLowerCase()}>`;
  return result;

<div id="outer" class='i-want-"this"'>
  <span>I do not want this</span>

Please note that for self-closing elements like <img /> this would give you an unwanted and incorrect closing tag. Feel free to adjust the code accordingly.

If someone is not using jQuery . . .

"<a href="#" class="class">
  link text
"<a href="#" class="class"></a>"

If you want to be safe for Firefox etc. released before mid-2014, use cloneNode(false) to avoid getting inner stuff.