Definition of early in English:



  • 1Happening or done before the usual or expected time.

    ‘we ate an early lunch’
    • ‘The IAEA mission has handed the plant management an early report on their work.’
    • ‘It's still early, but I may well get an entire chapter out of that little spark of an idea.’
    • ‘We had decided to get an early start and headed out to Kirkuk and then to Tikrit.’
    • ‘There was an early start each day, admittedly, but I covered nearly 100 miles a day and got a lot done in between.’
    • ‘It is expected that the union will shortly call an early general assembly.’
    • ‘Twenty-five pensioners enjoyed a free lunch as an early Christmas present from their local pub.’
    • ‘With early planting it is essential that a good seed treatment be used to protect the seed.’
    • ‘Mum was booked on the 12.55 back to Edinburgh, so it had to be an early lunch, come hail or shine.’
    • ‘Monday was an early lunch of homemade mince pie, chips and veg at Via Veneto.’
    • ‘Once I had finished updating a monthly report, I took an early lunch and met her for a coffee.’
    • ‘The early onset of agricultural innovation there cannot be ascribed to above-average urban demand.’
    • ‘He was three-quarters of a length up at the line, and could have gained no more than a neck's advantage by his early start.’
    • ‘I'd pretty well given up on the day, took an early lunch, popped a couple of painkillers and took to my bed.’
    • ‘After an early lunch we packed some kit into a couple of bags and off we went to catch the ferry to Brownsea Island.’
    • ‘The concentration of starch in stage two nodosities indicates a relatively early onset of starch accumulation.’
    • ‘He's off to Aus for a month on Thursday so we grabbed an early Christmas drink down near his office in Leatherhead.’
    • ‘Just to really stoke things up, we arrived at Lyneham to find that we'd been booked an early lunch in the canteen.’
    • ‘Any protracted celebrations were curtailed by the early start to the Derry championship.’
    • ‘It's an idea that repeatedly surfaces in magazines and newspapers trying to sell an early start to the weekend.’
    • ‘Saturday will be centrepiece of the trek, and an early start will take them over a high mountain pass to Spain.’
    prompt, timely, quick, speedy, rapid, fast, without delay, expeditious
    untimely, premature
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    1. 1.1(of a plant or crop) flowering or ripening before other varieties.
      ‘early potatoes’
      • ‘Two types of monad pollen are present in early orchids, namely that with pollenkitt and that with elastoviscin.’
      • ‘However, for early crops in the south of the country, disease outbreak can be much earlier.’
      • ‘The garden is taking on its autumn hues and late-flowering plants dominate while early bloomers fade.’
      • ‘Many of the early maturing varieties are best when ripened under relatively cool conditions.’
      • ‘Wild plants such as the early marsh orchids are very selective about where they grow.’
      • ‘In several cases it is possible to test this by comparing early and late varieties of titanite from the same sample or same locality.’
  • 2Happening, belonging to, or done near the beginning of a particular time or period.

    ‘an early goal secured victory’
    • ‘We had already done around a dozen surgical cases in the morning and the early afternoon.’
    • ‘However, Stevenson and his film crew have been warned to expect a few early alarm calls before they finally have the film in the can.’
    • ‘A quick listen to their early songs proves just how clued in this group was from the start.’
    • ‘An employee in his early thirties may well expect to retire at an earlier age than employees in their late fifties.’
    • ‘The early work, expected to start soon, will focus on the nature reserve.’
    • ‘It now goes to the Senate, where little opposition is expected, in early March.’
    • ‘It was early in the morning and the sun was just beginning to show its lovely face from the horizon.’
    • ‘The trials programme emerged as an ingenious political expedient in early 1998.’
    • ‘Rangers settled quickest and took an early lead from a diving header by Smith from Philips cross.’
    • ‘It is fascinating walking country, greener in early summer than you might expect.’
    • ‘They have until September 30 to submit final bids, and a winner is expected by early October.’
    • ‘It was early morning and he had been parking his van near a site where he was working as a labourer, when he and a co-worker saw the fire.’
    • ‘From early morning, the general atmosphere was calm and relaxed, more in tune with a public festival than a mass protest.’
    • ‘It's never too early in the spring to plant the radish seeds, as long as the soil can be worked.’
    • ‘A decision on how the court will proceed is expected sometime in early April.’
    • ‘He had gone to his gentleman's club and was not expected to return until early evening.’
    • ‘We expected reasonable weather in early September, but boy, were we disappointed!’
    • ‘The early goal in that second period helped lift us, gave us something to hold on to, and from then on we played well.’
    • ‘An early goal after 30 seconds had the team from Portmagee under pressure from the start.’
    • ‘In the early hours of the morning, police saw a driver using fog lights when there was no need for it and checked him.’
    advance, forward, prior
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    1. 2.1Done or occurring near the beginning of the day.
      ‘we agreed to meet at 6 a.m. to get an early start’
      • ‘I congratulate all those MPs who have had the courage of their convictions in signing up to this early day motion.’
      • ‘She returned to bed but called an ambulance in the early hours of the next day when she heard that her husband had stopped snoring.’
      • ‘Richard's uncle Mel Taylor, who runs the Blue Pits Inn, Manchester Road, Castleton, stayed up until the early hours of Monday morning to share his success.’
    2. 2.2Denoting or belonging to the beginning or opening stages of a historical period, cultural movement, or sphere of activity.
      ‘early Impressionism’
      • ‘For historians of the early modern period the study of death has proven especially fruitful.’
      • ‘The main phase of construction of the visible walls of the fort, however, belongs to the early medieval period.’
      • ‘In the early modern period Descartes seems to have taken this position.’
      • ‘Contrary to what many books say, neither chess or draughts were commonly played in the early medieval period.’
      • ‘We are only now beginning to see how much survived of Roman and Celtic culture in the early medieval period.’
      • ‘Brading's book is a fine study that scholars of the early modern period should read.’
      • ‘As we get into the post-Roman / early medieval period we have a series of bows from Denmark and Germany.’
      • ‘When we look at this Hadith, we have a glimpse of life in the early Islamic period.’
      • ‘During the early post-war period, however, there was a marked turn towards a more analytical style.’
      • ‘The Islamic expansion of the early medieval period was not waged for glory, or any of the other factors I listed at the top of this op.’
      • ‘The unitary empire of the early Islamic period had fragmented into numerous regional and local states.’
      old style, former, past, bygone, historic, heritage, antique, antiquarian, classical, traditional, folk, old-world, ancestral, time-honoured, ancient, veteran, vintage, quaint
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    3. 2.3Occurring at the beginning of a sequence.
      ‘the earlier chapters of the book’
      • ‘It reminded me a lot of the early parts of the peyote sequence in Animal Man.’
      • ‘The plot is triggered in the early chapters of the novel when a colleague is murdered.’
      • ‘These early chapters confirm much of what was suspected but not known about the Tampa crisis.’
      • ‘Browsing may cause profuse basal branching and maintain plants at an early stage of growth and development.’
      • ‘In roots of wild-type plants of cultivar Finale, all early stages of infection were identified.’
      • ‘Thackeray, as he penned the early chapters, saw a rather more dignified narrative future for William.’
      • ‘A penniless writer used to sit here all day, writing the early draft chapters of her now famous novel.’
      • ‘With the transformation still in its early stages revenues are expected to decline.’
      • ‘She narrates the early chapters with an innocence and knowingness that is touching, funny and disturbing.’
      • ‘The fact that we know how this horrible story ends makes it difficult for us to analyse the early chapters.’
      • ‘For many crop species, such as corn or wheat, varieties involved in the early stages of domestication are lost.’
      • ‘Mr Miller told us that one question kept cropping up from an early stage.’
      • ‘The early chapters are not well handled from a technical point of view.’
      • ‘The early chapters are strong on narrative and pace but the ending sort of fades.’
      • ‘Mr Oliver said that plans for the plant were in the early stages and more details would be released next month.’
      • ‘The early chapters are a little confusing perhaps, and the ending is a tad predictable.’
      • ‘In my eyes, this is an exceptionally well written book, particularly in the early chapters.’
      • ‘During the early stages of plant development, internode elongation is suppressed and only leaves expand.’
      • ‘This early sequence, without a trace of dignity or sensitivity, sets the tone for the entire film.’
      • ‘Just how rapid the early stages of recovery can be is shown for Anomodon viticulosus in Fig.3.’


  • 1Before the usual or expected time.

    ‘I was planning to finish work early today’
    • ‘The agent came today, half an hour early, to measure up the rooms, note details and take photographs.’
    • ‘However, there are justifiable reasons for going to bed so ridiculously early.’
    • ‘I managed to charm one of the supervisors into letting me start, and thus finish half an hour early.’
    • ‘A few producers were able to line up scripts early and finished that part of the work sooner.’
    • ‘I set out early, expecting the city to myself, only to discover the streets packed with runners and spectators.’
    • ‘Today we woke up early and decided to see as much of the city as we could on foot.’
    • ‘She rises early before the sun gets too hot to work in the corn fields behind her apartment.’
    • ‘It took me over a week to do just this chapter, because the computer lab closed early, some days.’
    • ‘Today I left work early to watch them play their deadly rivals St Hugo's at home and caught the second half.’
    • ‘The workers said there would be no production at the site today and many were leaving work early.’
    • ‘We were encouraged to sign up early for events as some were expected to sell out early.’
    • ‘People are advised to get their tickets early as a full house is expected.’
    • ‘We turned into bed early that night, readying ourselves for what we expected would be a long day.’
    • ‘The freight train involved in the crash was running 20 minutes early, it was revealed today.’
    • ‘His boss is nice, lets him glide his time, so he works through lunch and takes off early, which is a good plan on fine days.’
    • ‘People are advised to book tickets early as it is expected that the show will sell out very quickly.’
    • ‘She rose early the next morning with a thousand questions running around in her head - where was she?’
    • ‘He might as well try this race, and if he did reach the finish line early, he could down the whiskey.’
    • ‘The bulbs can be planted early, which gives them longer to fatten up.’
    • ‘This means the bar started its party 12 hours early, at noon today, as the seventeenth dawned in Fiji.’
    before the usual time, before the appointed time
    early in the day, in the early morning
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  • 2Near the beginning of a particular time or period.

    ‘we lost a couple of games early in the season’
    • ‘Any incoming administration would be ill advised to get on my bad side early in the game.’
    • ‘It was at the opening of the new offices early last month.’
    • ‘Shipley wrote to the government early last month, which confirmed the letter had been copied to Irish Rail.’
    • ‘Hudson should be inserted early in the game because he's often hot right out of the chute.’
    • ‘He received a back injury early in the competition and was not expected to be back until the championship.’
    • ‘Few top-quality games titles were launched early in the year, so shoppers weren't lured in.’
    • ‘Building can only begin once the government relaxes gaming laws, which is expected to happen early next year.’
    • ‘The signing of the peace accord was initially scheduled to take place early this month.’
    • ‘Preliminary talks are slated to begin in Hong Kong early next month, he said.’
    • ‘They are now gearing up to host India for another three Tests and five one-day games early next year.’
    • ‘It looked like they had played the game too early and the adrenaline had run out.’
    • ‘We are also hoping to travel to England to play a challenge game early next year.’
    • ‘A frank discussion early in the game about its nature and extent is the best approach.’
    • ‘His interest in criminal work petered out fairly early in his career and he specialised in family law.’
    • ‘These three guys were expected to climb well, but got shelled early and lost big time.’
    • ‘We decided early that the games to beat would be the other naval games on the market.’
    • ‘Compared to the same period last year you've performed very well early in the season.’
    • ‘Chelsea players would be well advised not to coast when they gather for pre-season training early next month.’
    • ‘I should have learned my lesson about naming an Employee of the Month too early in the month.’
    • ‘Chelsea had a good period early in the second half, but we weathered that and came back at them.’
    beginning, opening, commencing, starting, inceptive, embryonic, fledgling
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    1. 2.1Near the beginning of the day.
      ‘I wrote this piece early one morning’
      • ‘So this morning, I woke up early and enjoyed a long, lazy lie-in before popping the radio on just as I hopped into the shower.’
      • ‘He said they had arrested 12 Iraqis during raids in the Tikrit area overnight and early yesterday.’
      • ‘Two shots were fired at a police car as officers made a routine stop-check on a vehicle parked on the M5 motorway in Gloucestershire early this morning.’
      • ‘In Beijing the announcement was put out early on the morning of the 30th.’
      • ‘I and my two friends arrived fairly rested in Madrid very early on a Sunday morning and were immediately greeted by our Activity Coordinator, Antonio.’
      • ‘She died early last Wednesday morning.’
      • ‘One person died and two others were seriously injured in a collision between a lorry and a New Forest Council vehicle early today.’
      • ‘Earlier in the day, Vajpayee held a one-on-one meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Zafar ullah Jamali after the inaugural session of the summit.’
      • ‘The Israel Defence Force (IDF) said it had been responding to rocket fire early yesterday.’
      • ‘Early to bed and early to rise and we awoke to the fulfillment of the horrid weather forecast: cold, dark skies, windy.’
      • ‘Although not a morning person whatsoever Ari forced herself out of bed early every morning so she could start to get ready.’
      • ‘It was announced earlier today that the final plans for the Eden-Epsom recreational precinct are now on public display.’
      • ‘And early the next morning, it was back on the Gray Goose for another site visit.’
      • ‘He explained that, earlier in the day, he had delivered the then-current version of the testimony to the State Department's Legal Adviser, Abraham Sofaer.’
    2. 2.2Before the present time or before the time one is referring to.
      ‘you met my husband earlier’
      • ‘Claire had been arrested and bailed earlier on the day of her death for a previous criminal damage offence on a bus stop in Bolton.’
      • ‘The theme of the film almost echoed the stories depicted earlier on stage and was not a remarkable hit.’
      in advance, in readiness, ahead of time
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Old English (as an adverb) ǣrlīce (see ere, -ly), influenced by Old Norse árliga. The adjective use dates from Middle English.