When labeling a message with a nested label the message does not appear in the parent label, which in my opinion would be the power having a label hierarchy.

Is there a way to automatically apply the parent label when moving a message to a sublabel?

For example, given the following labels...


I would like every message labeled Today to also appear in Pending, without having to apply a filter manually.

  • you have to use a filter Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 8:14
  • Check my answer if you dont want to manually create all parent label filters
    – Joshua H
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 10:10

5 Answers 5


I managed to achieve a similar functionality this by enabling the Quick Links lab and then setting a quick link to the following seach:

label:pending OR label:pending-today OR label:pending-week
  • I am trying to access my mail via IMAP. Quick Links doesn't show up as an IMAP folder, does it?
    – palswim
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 5:53

I've achieved this by creating a new filter with all child labels linked with OR and (edited to clarify) applying parent label to it, i.e.:

label:parent-child1 OR label:parent-child2 and so on...

No Quick Links thingy (found that solution also in some other sites) and so far everything works as expected.

  • GMail says: Filter searches containing "label:", "in:", "is:", date range (e.g. "before:" or "after:") or stars criteria (e.g. "has:yellow-star") are not recommended as they will never match incoming mail.
    – palswim
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 6:36
  • @badc0de: Does this still work for you? I get the same warning that the filter "will never match incoming mail".
    – cbarrick
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 18:31

For me the best solution is to make two identical filters, one for each label:

  • One that applies the parent label
  • Another that applies the nested label

When you are dragging emails from inbox which are already labeled as the parent label (I automatically label it with a filter), try selecting that specific email (having a tick box checked), then drag the email to nested label. By doing this it will apply both labels.


If you don't mind a bit of editing:

  1. Go to settings → Filters and blocked address
  2. Check all the filters that apply the sublabels
  3. Export the filters
  4. Edit the XML and replace all the <parent>/<sublabel> labels to <parent>, then save the file
  5. Go to setting → Filters and blocker address → import new filters
  6. Import the edited files

Voila, you have duplicated all the sublabel filters to parent label filters.

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