4.2 Message Headers

HTTP header fields, which include general-header (Section 4.5), request-header (Section 5.3), response-header (Section 6.2), and entity-header (Section 7.1) fields, follow the same generic format as that given in Section 3.1 of RFC 822 [9]. Each header field consists of a name followed by a colon (":") and the field value. Field names are case-insensitive. The field value MAY be preceded by any amount of LWS, though a single SP is preferred. Header fields can be extended over multiple lines by preceding each extra line with at least one SP or HT. Applications ought to follow "common form", where one is known or indicated, when generating HTTP constructs, since there might exist some implementations that fail to accept anything beyond the common forms.


= field-name ":" [ field-value ]


= token


= *( field-content | LWS )


= <the OCTETs making up the field-value and consisting of either *TEXT or combinations of token, separators, and quoted-string>

The field-content does not include any leading or trailing LWS: linear white space occurring before the first non-whitespace character of the field-value or after the last non-whitespace character of the field-value. Such leading or trailing LWS MAY be removed without changing the semantics of the field value. Any LWS that occurs between field-content MAY be replaced with a single SP before interpreting the field value or forwarding the message downstream.

The order in which header fields with differing field names are received is not significant. However, it is "good practice" to send general-header fields first, followed by request-header or response- header fields, and ending with the entity-header fields. Multiple message-header fields with the same field-name MAY be present in a message if and only if the entire field-value for that header field is defined as a comma-separated list [i.e., #(values)]. It MUST be possible to combine the multiple header fields into one "field-name: field-value" pair, without changing the semantics of the message, by appending each subsequent field-value to the first, each separated by a comma. The order in which header fields with the same field-name are received is therefore significant to the interpretation of the combined field value, and thus a proxy MUST NOT change the order of these field values when a message is forwarded.