Definition of early in English:

early

adjectiveearlier, earliest

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

    ‘we ate an early lunch’
    • ‘Twenty-five pensioners enjoyed a free lunch as an early Christmas present from their local pub.’
    • ‘Just to really stoke things up, we arrived at Lyneham to find that we'd been booked an early lunch in the canteen.’
    • ‘Monday was an early lunch of homemade mince pie, chips and veg at Via Veneto.’
    • ‘Mum was booked on the 12.55 back to Edinburgh, so it had to be an early lunch, come hail or shine.’
    • ‘I'd pretty well given up on the day, took an early lunch, popped a couple of painkillers and took to my bed.’
    • ‘Once I had finished updating a monthly report, I took an early lunch and met her for a coffee.’
    • ‘After an early lunch we packed some kit into a couple of bags and off we went to catch the ferry to Brownsea Island.’
    • ‘He's off to Aus for a month on Thursday so we grabbed an early Christmas drink down near his office in Leatherhead.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Saturday will be centrepiece of the trek, and an early start will take them over a high mountain pass to Spain.’
    • ‘Any protracted celebrations were curtailed by the early start to the Derry championship.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It's an idea that repeatedly surfaces in magazines and newspapers trying to sell an early start to the weekend.’
    • ‘The concentration of starch in stage two nodosities indicates a relatively early onset of starch accumulation.’
    • ‘The early onset of agricultural innovation there cannot be ascribed to above-average urban demand.’
    • ‘It's still early, but I may well get an entire chapter out of that little spark of an idea.’
    • ‘With early planting it is essential that a good seed treatment be used to protect the seed.’
    • ‘The IAEA mission has handed the plant management an early report on their work.’
    • ‘It is expected that the union will shortly call an early general assembly.’
    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’
      • ‘However, for early crops in the south of the country, disease outbreak can be much earlier.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The garden is taking on its autumn hues and late-flowering plants dominate while early bloomers fade.’
  • 2Belonging or happening near the beginning of a particular period.

    ‘an early goal secured victory’
    ‘she's in her early 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.’
    • ‘It was early in the morning and the sun was just beginning to show its lovely face from the horizon.’
    • ‘The early goal in that second period helped lift us, gave us something to hold on to, and from then on we played well.’
    • ‘From early morning, the general atmosphere was calm and relaxed, more in tune with a public festival than a mass protest.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We had already done around a dozen surgical cases in the morning and the early afternoon.’
    • ‘It now goes to the Senate, where little opposition is expected, in early March.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We expected reasonable weather in early September, but boy, were we disappointed!’
    • ‘They have until September 30 to submit final bids, and a winner is expected by early October.’
    • ‘A decision on how the court will proceed is expected sometime in early April.’
    • ‘It is fascinating walking country, greener in early summer than you might expect.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The early work, expected to start soon, will focus on the nature reserve.’
    • ‘Rangers settled quickest and took an early lead from a diving header by Smith from Philips cross.’
    • ‘The trials programme emerged as an ingenious political expedient in early 1998.’
    • ‘A quick listen to their early songs proves just how clued in this group was from the start.’
    • ‘It's never too early in the spring to plant the radish seeds, as long as the soil can be worked.’
    advance, forward, prior
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Done or occurring near the beginning of the day.
      ‘we agreed to meet at 6 am 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 of a historical period or cultural movement.
      ‘early impressionism’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Contrary to what many books say, neither chess or draughts were commonly played in the early medieval period.’
      • ‘In the early modern period Descartes seems to have taken this position.’
      • ‘The unitary empire of the early Islamic period had fragmented into numerous regional and local states.’
      • ‘When we look at this Hadith, we have a glimpse of life in the early Islamic period.’
      • ‘Brading's book is a fine study that scholars of the early modern period should read.’
      • ‘We are only now beginning to see how much survived of Roman and Celtic culture in the early medieval period.’
      • ‘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.’
      old style, former, past, bygone, historic, heritage, antique, antiquarian, early, classical, traditional, folk, old-world, ancestral, time-honoured, ancient, veteran, vintage, quaint
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3Occurring at the beginning of a sequence.
      ‘the earlier chapters of the book’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A penniless writer used to sit here all day, writing the early draft chapters of her now famous novel.’
      • ‘She narrates the early chapters with an innocence and knowingness that is touching, funny and disturbing.’
      • ‘The early chapters are not well handled from a technical point of view.’
      • ‘In my eyes, this is an exceptionally well written book, particularly in the early chapters.’
      • ‘The fact that we know how this horrible story ends makes it difficult for us to analyse the early chapters.’
      • ‘The early chapters are a little confusing perhaps, and the ending is a tad predictable.’
      • ‘Thackeray, as he penned the early chapters, saw a rather more dignified narrative future for William.’
      • ‘These early chapters confirm much of what was suspected but not known about the Tampa crisis.’
      • ‘The plot is triggered in the early chapters of the novel when a colleague is murdered.’
      • ‘Just how rapid the early stages of recovery can be is shown for Anomodon viticulosus in Fig.3.’
      • ‘It reminded me a lot of the early parts of the peyote sequence in Animal Man.’
      • ‘With the transformation still in its early stages revenues are expected to decline.’
      • ‘For many crop species, such as corn or wheat, varieties involved in the early stages of domestication are lost.’
      • ‘During the early stages of plant development, internode elongation is suppressed and only leaves expand.’
      • ‘Browsing may cause profuse basal branching and maintain plants at an early stage of growth and development.’
      • ‘Mr Miller told us that one question kept cropping up from an early stage.’
      • ‘In roots of wild-type plants of cultivar Finale, all early stages of infection were identified.’
      • ‘Mr Oliver said that plans for the plant were in the early stages and more details would be released next month.’

adverb

  • 1Before the usual or expected time.

    ‘I was planning to finish work early today’
    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’
    beginning, opening, commencing, starting, inceptive, embryonic, fledgling
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Near the beginning of the day.
      ‘I wrote this piece early one morning’
    2. 2.2earlierBefore the present time or before the time one is referring to.
      ‘you met my husband earlier’
      in advance, in readiness, ahead of time
      View synonyms

noun

earlies
  • 1Potatoes which are ready to be harvested before the main crop.

    • ‘The versatile early potato Solanum tuberosum has many varieties, which have their own distinct season in Britain: earlies, second earlies and main crop.’
    • ‘He is currently harvesting Lady Christl earlies which are being sold through Tesco's Welsh stores.’
    • ‘We're only growing 2 varieties of spuds this year - Red Duke of York for earlies and Desiree for main crop.’
    • ‘The Pembrokeshire crop won't be harvested until May 7th, so they have imported earlies from Israel.’
    • ‘Although they are independent growers, they are marketing their earlies through the growers' co-operative.’
    • ‘If you are lucky, earlies will be ready before blight strikes; if it hits your maincrop, you'll see yellow stains on the leaves, which then spread.’
    • ‘An over-abundance of main crop potatoes in storage is depressing the price of Pembrokeshire-produced earlies.’
    • ‘The present spell of current weather is hampering growth and maturity with expected harvesting dates of first earlies now being delayed.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, Puffin Produce growers will be producing 500 acres of earlies on contract for retail giant, Asda.’
    • ‘By planting time - the end of the month for first earlies and, if you're busy, as late as early May for the maincrop - the eyes should have produced short tough shoots.’
    • ‘To make absolutely sure of a constant supply, I planted some earlies, some mediums and some late fruiting varieties.’
    • ‘The spokesman said the company was committed to maintaining its link with Pembrokeshire earlies.’
    • ‘Mr Hayman, who has been growing earlies for nearly 40 years, had been runner-up four times.’
    • ‘The Marketing Co-ordinator added that it is looking increasingly likely that the entry of the first and second earlies onto both the home and overseas markets will be later than last year.’
    • ‘First earlies are planted between the end of March and early April and take about 100 days before cropping.’
  • 2informal Early shifts.

    ‘she is on earlies’
    • ‘He asked to be put on earlies so he could pick her up from school.’
    • ‘Because the ITV network is 24 hours a day, the whole thing is based on shift work so we work a series of earlies, lates and nights.’
    • ‘But our allowances for working earlies, which means starting at 4.15 am, have stayed at £11.75 over the same period.’
    • ‘With earlies you can't get the tube to work because it's not running so it's the night bus or the bike.’

Phrases

    at the earliest
    • Not before the time or date specified.

      ‘the table won't be delivered until next week at the earliest’
      • ‘He is not expected to make a decision on the appeal until September at the earliest.’
      • ‘Those in attendance demanded the council extend the consultation period until the end of October 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.’
      • ‘Not only is he struggling with an ankle injury, but his work permit isn't expected to arrive until next week 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.’
      • ‘As for delays to the local plan, the meeting was told that this will not be completed before 2007 at the earliest.’
      • ‘The new treatment plant will not be ready until next summer at the earliest.’
      • ‘However, he said the victim's identity would not be revealed until today at the earliest.’
      • ‘That means any announcement on reclassification will have to wait until summer at the earliest.’
    early bird
    humorous
    • A person who rises, arrives, or acts before the usual or expected time.

      ‘he was always an early bird’
      as modifier ‘many cruise lines offer early-bird discounts for people who plan ahead’
      • ‘‘Ahhh… the early bird finally arrives,’ her mother said, sarcasm dripping in her voice.’
      • ‘She's always an early bird, always, that wife of mine.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Everyone wanted to be an early bird and cash in on the sale.’
      • ‘It is the early bird who gets the bargains, apparently.’
    the early bird catches the worm
    proverb
    • The person who takes the earliest opportunity to do something will gain the advantage over others.

      • ‘As is usually the case with property investment opportunities, the early bird catches the worm.’
      • ‘As my Mom always says, the early bird catches the worm.’
      • ‘We all know that the early bird catches the worm.’
      • ‘Baxter wanted to prove that the early bird catches the worm, or in this case, Tony's finger.’
      • ‘As my father always used to say, the early bird catches the worm and surprises the IRS spies.’
      • ‘The early bird catches the worm in my game, so I have to be up and about no matter what day it is.’
      • ‘The experience of Australia is that the early bird gets the worm.’
    early doors
    British informal
    • Early on, especially in a game or contest.

      ‘you should try to wind up their star player early doors’
      • ‘We need to make sure we get into games early doors so we are not having to come from behind.’
      • ‘In fact they cheated all afternoon, targeting Chris Cusiter at early doors, killing the game in rucks and all the time being nasty, niggling and brutish.’
      • ‘He's throwing out cards like a croupier early doors and the game could end up being a farce if he's not careful.’
      • ‘They try to play a very physical game and get on top of you early doors, but we've got to front up to them.’
      • ‘I know it's early doors but I'm quite optimistic about our chances this season.’
      • ‘It's hit us early doors that, if you don't get your basics right, this division will punish you.’
      • ‘We handled the pressure early doors and asked a lot of questions even without scoring a lot of tries.’
      • ‘‘We've got to take our chances and we've not got to give them a start early doors,’ adds the boss, who is trying to treat this one like just another game.’
      • ‘Cordoba himself lost to Abelyan only by a majority points decision in October 2002, so for Estrada to stop him early doors is an indication that he is no mug.’
      • ‘The English white flags, the ones without the red cross, were being flown early doors as Brazil's quality became apparent.’
    an early grave
    • A premature or untimely death.

      ‘he worked himself into 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They believe the British culture of long working hours is killing family life and driving workers into an early grave through stress and overwork.’
      • ‘Life's short enough without worrying yourself into an early grave.’
      • ‘Bob drank himself towards an early grave for nine years.’
      • ‘Experts believe that their lack of activity and taste for sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks may be driving them towards an early grave.’
      • ‘Many of these poor people only found relief when, worn out by misery and broken hearted, they went to an early grave.’
    an early night
    • An occasion when someone goes to bed before the usual time.

      ‘I think I'll have an early night’
      • ‘Monday it gets a little worse but I shrug it off, have an early dinner and an early night.’
      • ‘I was going to have an early night but just before we retired Linda switched the kitchen light on and blew the lighting fuse.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I must get a bite to eat, a pint, and an early night.’
      • ‘About once a month I have an early night - ten or eleven p.m. - and it's always a deliriously wonderful experience.’
      • ‘I'm going to try and get an early night so I don't oversleep tomorrow.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Anyway it was an early night and a fairly comfortable sleep.’
      • ‘Most ministers would have had an early night; Lenihan was still up at 4am.’
      • ‘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.’
    the early hours
    • The time after midnight and before dawn.

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

      ‘it's early days yet, but the centre has already doubled its workforce’
      ‘it's still early days for the initiative’
      • ‘I'm not sure whether it's early days or not, but everything seems to be going ok.’
      • ‘At any rate, it's early days and I'm sure they'll improve as they get their sea legs.’
      • ‘He's settled in well as a striker behind Andy Whittaker and they have a good understanding with each other already, though it's early days yet.’
      • ‘We haven't had too many problems yet because of this but it's early days.’
      • ‘They have been seen drinking in an Irish pub together and they certainly looked very cosy but it's early days.’
      • ‘We have started that process but it's early days and we need to look at what is happening in other jurisdictions in Australia.’
      • ‘Although it's early days, I'd have to agree with you.’
      • ‘I quite like this so far, although it's early days.’
      • ‘I'm not sure I'm going to hit the target of 50,000 words but it's early days.’
      • ‘That's why I'm mentioning the idea now - it's early days, but finally I have something to build on.’
    early (or earlier) on
    • At an early (or earlier) stage in a period.

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

Origin

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

Pronunciation

early

/ˈəːli/