How to Select a Random Element from a PHP Array

  John Mwaniki /    Updated on 07 Jul 2024

When working with arrays, you may have scenarios where you need to select a random element from an array every time the code is executed.

For example, you may want to display different content randomly, such as images, advertisements, testimonials, or product recommendations every time a user visits your website. This not only adds a dynamic element to your content but also prevents stale content from dominating.

Another such scenario is when offering prize draws and giveaways. Randomly selecting winners from a pool of entrants ensures fairness and transparency.

Selecting a Random Array Element in PHP

There are several methods you can use to select a random element from arrays in PHP. Below we cover some of them:

1. Using array_rand() Function

The array_rand() function takes in an array as input and returns a random key from it. It can also return an array of random keys if a second optional numeric parameter is passed specifying the number of keys.

We then use the returned key to access the corresponding array element.

Example 1

// Sample array
$colors = array("red", "green", "blue", "yellow", "orange");

// Getting a random key from array
$randomIndex = array_rand($colors);

// Accessing the corresponding array element
$randomColor = $colors[$randomIndex];

echo "Random color: ".$randomColor;

Random color: orange

Example 2

$fruits = array("Banana", "Apple", "Mango", "Guava", "Plums");
$randomFruit = $fruits[array_rand($fruits)];
echo "Random fruit: ".$randomFruit;

Random fruit: Guava

Example 3

$students = array("Alice" => 95, "Bob" => 82, "Charlie" => 78, "Mary" => 84);
$randomKey = array_rand($students);
$randomScore = $students[$randomKey];
echo $randomKey.": ".$randomScore;

Bob: 82

In this example, we have an associative array of four students and their respective marks. The code prints a random student and the marks they got.

2. Using shuffle() Function

The shuffle() function randomizes the order of elements in an array. It reorders the elements, removes the existing keys, and assigns new keys to the elements.

Therefore, you can easily select a random element by shuffling the array and using any key within the array range to access the corresponding element.


$fruits = array("Apple", "Banana", "Orange", "Grape", "Strawberry");

// Randomizing the array

// Getting the first element of a randomized array 
$randomFruit = $fruits[0];
echo "Random fruit: ".$randomFruit;

Random fruit: Grape

3. Using mt_rand() Function

We can also use a random integer generator such as the mt_rand() function. This function generates a random integer within the specified range.


mt_rand() or mt_rand(min, max)

The min parameter specifies the lowest number to return. The max parameter specifies the highest number to return.

Our goal is to generate a random integer that falls within the range of the array's indexes. The min will be zero (0) since the array starts at index 0. The max will be the size of the array minus 1, e.i., count($array) - 1.

We then use the generated random number as a key to access the corresponding element in the array.


$animals = array("Lion", "Leopard", "Buffalo", "Elephant", "Rabbit");

// Getting a random number as key with the array range
$randomKey = mt_rand(0, count($animals)-1);

// Accessing the element corresponding to the generated key
$randomAnimal = $animals[$randomKey];

echo "Random animal: ".$randomAnimal;

Random animal: Leopard


Selecting random elements from PHP arrays is a versatile technique with numerous applications. By understanding the methods in this article, you can now effectively incorporate randomness into your programs, enhancing a dynamic element and improving user experience.