Definition of early in English:

early

adjective

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

    ‘we ate an early lunch’
    • ‘There was an early start each day, admittedly, but I covered nearly 100 miles a day and got a lot done in between.’
    • ‘Saturday will be centrepiece of the trek, and an early start will take them over a high mountain pass to Spain.’
    • ‘Just to really stoke things up, we arrived at Lyneham to find that we'd been booked an early lunch in the canteen.’
    • ‘The concentration of starch in stage two nodosities indicates a relatively early onset of starch accumulation.’
    • ‘It's still early, but I may well get an entire chapter out of that little spark of an idea.’
    • ‘It's an idea that repeatedly surfaces in magazines and newspapers trying to sell an early start to the weekend.’
    • ‘The IAEA mission has handed the plant management an early report on their work.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘With early planting it is essential that a good seed treatment be used to protect the seed.’
    • ‘Monday was an early lunch of homemade mince pie, chips and veg at Via Veneto.’
    • ‘Twenty-five pensioners enjoyed a free lunch as an early Christmas present from their local pub.’
    • ‘Once I had finished updating a monthly report, I took an early lunch and met her for a coffee.’
    • ‘I'd pretty well given up on the day, took an early lunch, popped a couple of painkillers and took to my bed.’
    • ‘We had decided to get an early start and headed out to Kirkuk and then to Tikrit.’
    • ‘The early onset of agricultural innovation there cannot be ascribed to above-average urban demand.’
    • ‘Mum was booked on the 12.55 back to Edinburgh, so it had to be an early lunch, come hail or shine.’
    • ‘Any protracted celebrations were curtailed by the early start to the Derry championship.’
    • ‘He's off to Aus for a month on Thursday so we grabbed an early Christmas drink down near his office in Leatherhead.’
    • ‘It is expected that the union will shortly call an early general assembly.’
    • ‘After an early lunch we packed some kit into a couple of bags and off we went to catch the ferry to Brownsea Island.’
    untimely, premature
    prompt, timely, quick, speedy, rapid, fast, without delay, expeditious
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a plant or crop) flowering or ripening before other varieties.
      ‘early potatoes’
      • ‘The garden is taking on its autumn hues and late-flowering plants dominate while early bloomers fade.’
      • ‘In several cases it is possible to test this by comparing early and late varieties of titanite from the same sample or same locality.’
      • ‘However, for early crops in the south of the country, disease outbreak can be much earlier.’
      • ‘Wild plants such as the early marsh orchids are very selective about where they grow.’
      • ‘Two types of monad pollen are present in early orchids, namely that with pollenkitt and that with elastoviscin.’
      • ‘Many of the early maturing varieties are best when ripened under relatively cool conditions.’
  • 2Happening, belonging to, or done near the beginning of a particular time or period.

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

adverb

  • 1Before the usual or expected time.

    ‘I was planning to finish work early today’
    • ‘She rose early the next morning with a thousand questions running around in her head - where was she?’
    • ‘However, there are justifiable reasons for going to bed so ridiculously early.’
    • ‘A few producers were able to line up scripts early and finished that part of the work sooner.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The bulbs can be planted early, which gives them longer to fatten up.’
    • ‘The freight train involved in the crash was running 20 minutes early, it was revealed today.’
    • ‘He might as well try this race, and if he did reach the finish line early, he could down the whiskey.’
    • ‘It took me over a week to do just this chapter, because the computer lab closed early, some days.’
    • ‘The agent came today, half an hour early, to measure up the rooms, note details and take photographs.’
    • ‘I managed to charm one of the supervisors into letting me start, and thus finish half an hour early.’
    • ‘This means the bar started its party 12 hours early, at noon today, as the seventeenth dawned in Fiji.’
    • ‘She rises early before the sun gets too hot to work in the corn fields behind her apartment.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Today I left work early to watch them play their deadly rivals St Hugo's at home and caught the second half.’
    • ‘Today we woke up early and decided to see as much of the city as we could on foot.’
    • ‘I set out early, expecting the city to myself, only to discover the streets packed with runners and spectators.’
    • ‘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.’
    early in the day, in the early morning
    before the usual time, before the appointed time
    View synonyms
  • 2Near the beginning of a particular time or period.

    ‘we lost a couple of games early in the season’
    • ‘Chelsea players would be well advised not to coast when they gather for pre-season training early next month.’
    • ‘Chelsea had a good period early in the second half, but we weathered that and came back at them.’
    • ‘Hudson should be inserted early in the game because he's often hot right out of the chute.’
    • ‘Any incoming administration would be ill advised to get on my bad side early in the game.’
    • ‘They are now gearing up to host India for another three Tests and five one-day games early next year.’
    • ‘His interest in criminal work petered out fairly early in his career and he specialised in family law.’
    • ‘He received a back injury early in the competition and was not expected to be back until the championship.’
    • ‘Compared to the same period last year you've performed very well early in the season.’
    • ‘These three guys were expected to climb well, but got shelled early and lost big time.’
    • ‘Few top-quality games titles were launched early in the year, so shoppers weren't lured in.’
    • ‘We are also hoping to travel to England to play a challenge game early next year.’
    • ‘Building can only begin once the government relaxes gaming laws, which is expected to happen early next year.’
    • ‘It looked like they had played the game too early and the adrenaline had run out.’
    • ‘I should have learned my lesson about naming an Employee of the Month too early in the month.’
    • ‘A frank discussion early in the game about its nature and extent is the best approach.’
    • ‘Shipley wrote to the government early last month, which confirmed the letter had been copied to Irish Rail.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We decided early that the games to beat would be the other naval games on the market.’
    • ‘It was at the opening of the new offices early last month.’
    beginning, opening, commencing, starting, inceptive, embryonic, fledgling
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Near the beginning of the day.
      ‘I wrote this piece early one morning’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘One person died and two others were seriously injured in a collision between a lorry and a New Forest Council vehicle early today.’
      • ‘The Israel Defence Force (IDF) said it had been responding to rocket fire early yesterday.’
      • ‘She died early last Wednesday 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 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Although not a morning person whatsoever Ari forced herself out of bed early every morning so she could start to get ready.’
      • ‘In Beijing the announcement was put out early on the morning of the 30th.’
      • ‘It was announced earlier today that the final plans for the Eden-Epsom recreational precinct are now on public display.’
      • ‘Early to bed and early to rise and we awoke to the fulfillment of the horrid weather forecast: cold, dark skies, windy.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And early the next morning, it was back on the Gray Goose for another site visit.’
      early in the day, in the early morning
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    2. 2.2earlier Before the present time or before the time one is referring to.
      ‘you met my husband earlier’
      • ‘The theme of the film almost echoed the stories depicted earlier on stage and was not a remarkable hit.’
      • ‘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.’
      in advance, in readiness, ahead of time
      View synonyms

Phrases

  • at the earliest

    • Not before the time or date specified.

      ‘the table won't be delivered until next week at the earliest’
      • ‘That means any announcement on reclassification will have to wait until summer at the earliest.’
      • ‘Not only is he struggling with an ankle injury, but his work permit isn't expected to arrive until next week at the earliest.’
      • ‘Building work is unlikely to start before September at the earliest.’
      • ‘The units were due to close on November 1, at the earliest, after the trust board made the decision in July.’
      • ‘As for delays to the local plan, the meeting was told that this will not be completed before 2007 at the earliest.’
      • ‘I'm flying back home to the UK today, so you won't be hearing from me until Thursday at the earliest.’
      • ‘He is not expected to make a decision on the appeal until September at the earliest.’
      • ‘However, he said the victim's identity would not be revealed until today at the earliest.’
      • ‘Those in attendance demanded the council extend the consultation period until the end of October at the earliest.’
      • ‘The new treatment plant will not be ready until next summer at the earliest.’
  • early bird

    • humorous A person who rises, arrives, or acts before the usual or expected time.

      • ‘The Hospital, an early bird in putting in place comprehensive diabetology services for patients, has also planned several programmes for patients as well as the public.’
      • ‘On the deluge of music albums, the early bird on the Indipop horizon says: ‘The more the number, the bigger is the competition.’’
      • ‘Membership is restricted to one person from each profession or trade, but you need to be an early bird - meetings start at 7.30 am.’
      • ‘She's always an early bird, always, that wife of mine.’
      • ‘Everyone wanted to be an early bird and cash in on the sale.’
      • ‘I just want to say now if you are an early bird you'll be delighted to know that from this Monday, he will be starting his breakfast show at 6am.’
      • ‘‘Ahhh… the early bird finally arrives,’ her mother said, sarcasm dripping in her voice.’
      • ‘It is the early bird who gets the bargains, apparently.’
      • ‘Then I realized that I'd have to get up early to milk the goats and I am just not capable of becoming an early bird.’
      • ‘Another early bird, a girl surnamed Chiu, bought 10 books of lyrics by local pop singer Chris Wong for her friends.’
  • an early grave

    • A premature or untimely death.

      ‘he worked himself into an early grave’
      • ‘The fight or flight emotions we originally felt, are today replaced with many other emotions that injure our immune systems and put us in an early grave.’
      • ‘His undignified road to the bottom - like that of fellow Scottish boxer Benny Lynch, who drank himself into an early grave - has been well documented.’
      • ‘Many of these poor people only found relief when, worn out by misery and broken hearted, they went to an early grave.’
      • ‘They believe the British culture of long working hours is killing family life and driving workers into an early grave through stress and overwork.’
      • ‘The early death of the poet's brother haunts the book, and there is an elegy for him, and more than one portrait of him as a delinquent headed for an early grave.’
      • ‘I was tired of losing those I cared about most to an early grave, I was tired of hearing about death upon death upon death.’
      • ‘Experts believe that their lack of activity and taste for sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks may be driving them towards an early grave.’
      • ‘Life's short enough without worrying yourself into an early grave.’
      • ‘Bob drank himself towards an early grave for nine years.’
      • ‘As much as you want your children to have fabulous childhoods, you must surely appreciate that it is essential for them to have a father who is not driving himself into an early grave.’
  • the early hours

    • The time after midnight and before dawn.

      • ‘He set off in the early hours of one morning and finished in the small hours of the next.’
      • ‘The seaside town was more than 70 miles away and they did not arrive until the early hours.’
      • ‘That evening a dance was held which did not finish until the early hours of the morning.’
      • ‘You were expected to party until the early hours and then be up first thing in the morning to sort out any problems.’
      • ‘Three more city centre night spots in York could soon open until the early hours every day of the week.’
      • ‘The ripples of celebration spread across Japan and lasted until the early hours.’
      • ‘He rang back again two hours later, which was in the early hours of the morning over there.’
      • ‘They complained of noise nuisance until the early hours of the morning and of litter.’
      • ‘The first person arrived shortly before midnight, and others came in the early hours.’
      • ‘That is the nature of the game and it tends to go on into the early hours.’
  • an early night

    • An occasion when someone goes to bed before the usual time.

      • ‘Most ministers would have had an early night; Lenihan was still up at 4am.’
      • ‘Anyway it was an early night and a fairly comfortable sleep.’
      • ‘I was going to have an early night but just before we retired Linda switched the kitchen light on and blew the lighting fuse.’
      • ‘I must get a bite to eat, a pint, and an early night.’
      • ‘After an early night, the boys will have a light work-out before travelling to Twickenham on Sunday in time to soak up the atmosphere of the first game.’
      • ‘About once a month I have an early night - ten or eleven p.m. - and it's always a deliriously wonderful experience.’
      • ‘Right, I'm just about unpacked now, so it's an early night for me, after which I'll only have to write the odd 4,000 words tomorrow to get back on track.’
      • ‘Monday it gets a little worse but I shrug it off, have an early dinner and an early night.’
      • ‘We had a quick dip in the pool, grabbed some food, had a few glasses of wine watching the stars and then turned in for an early night.’
      • ‘I'm going to try and get an early night so I don't oversleep tomorrow.’
  • early (or earlier) on

    • At an early (or earlier) stage in a particular time or period.

      ‘they discovered early on that the published data were wrong’
      • ‘Once Limerick had made the game safe early on they eased off to play at their own pace.’
      • ‘I believe that the problem had occurred much earlier on by the water at the crystallisation stage.’
      • ‘For better or for worse, they discovered their unique sound early on and have stuck with it.’
      • ‘If Mayo fail to hang on to their tails early on, the end result could be messy.’
      • ‘It was then that he remembered her as the girl who had asked Nick a question earlier on at the main stage.’
      • ‘Ideally, I'd like to get some fast laps in early on and try to put distance between us and the pack.’
      • ‘They always look for children with specific talents and they have a system to select them early on.’
      • ‘The wind also played a major factor in the first half with Leigh and their kicks benefiting early on.’
      • ‘We had something go bad with our tires early on, but once we changed them, we took off and had a great race car.’
      • ‘Mayo have plenty of talent, and they prepared as best they could, but were swamped early on.’
      • ‘I'm one of them people who drinks until they fall over, and I fall over pretty early on.’
      • ‘Won't some kids be stuck with a label very early on, when actually they might well change?’
      • ‘The aim is to offer help early on so that problems can be solved rather than turning into bigger issues.’
      • ‘Cynthia, even early on, appears by her own account to have been a bit of a doormat.’
      • ‘As I said to you earlier on, this is the next stage the Met has to go through.’
      • ‘Craig ran with his brother Mark early on before pressing on to try to get into the medal places.’
      • ‘They took the lead early on and had a nine point advantage at the end of the first quarter.’
      • ‘If the problem can be detected early on, then there is a good chance it can be successfully treated.’
      • ‘You can speed up the financial recovery process by reviewing your situation early on.’
      • ‘He played bass in a punk rock band early on, but he was also into disco, funk and hip hop.’

Origin

Old English (as an adverb) ǣrlīce (see ere, -ly), influenced by Old Norse árliga. The adjective use dates from Middle English.

Pronunciation

early

/ˈərlē//ˈərli/