ear·​ly | \ ˈər-lē How to pronounce early (audio) \
earlier; earliest

Definition of early

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : near the beginning of a period of time awoke early in the morning
b : near the beginning of a course, process, or series early in his senatorial career
2a : before the usual or expected time the train arrived early
b archaic : soon
c : sooner than related forms these apples bear early


earlier; earliest

Definition of early (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : of, relating to, or occurring near the beginning of a period of time, a development, or a series in the early evening the early symptoms of the disease
b(1) : distant in past time
(2) : primitive early tools
2a : occurring before the usual or expected time an early arrival
b : occurring in the near future at your earliest convenience
c : maturing or producing sooner than related forms an early peach


biographical name
Ear·​ly | \ ˈər-lē How to pronounce Early (audio) \

Definition of Early (Entry 3 of 3)

Ju*bal \ ˈjü-​bəl How to pronounce ˈjü-bəl (audio)\ Anderson 1816–1894 American Confederate general

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Other Words from early


earliness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for early

Synonyms: Adverb

beforehand, inopportunely, precociously, prematurely, unseasonably

Synonyms: Adjective

ancient, primal, primeval, primitive, primordial

Antonyms: Adverb

belatedly, late, tardily

Antonyms: Adjective


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Examples of early in a Sentence


Early in his career he moved to the city. a word first recorded early in the 17th century They were trailing by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The package should be arriving early next week. She arrived early to help with the preparations. I got up early to finish packing.


the early symptoms of the disease The early part of the book is better than the later part. We had an early spring this year. We're early. The show doesn't start for half an hour. I've always been an early riser.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Nadal would recover to decisively win the second set, but Federer kept the pressure on, breaking Nadal early in the third and recovering to take a one-set advantage. Jason Gay, WSJ, "Roger Federer Turns Back Clock—and Tables—on Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon," 12 July 2019 The Pride struggled offensively early in the year, scoring only two goals in the opening eight games. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Striker Chioma Ubogagu helps Orlando Pride to break out of scoring slump," 12 July 2019 Ninety-five percent of the nation’s 2.1 million prisoners will eventually be released, but because of a new federal law President Donald Trump signed this January, thousands of federal prisoners will be freed early in the coming years. USA TODAY, "No girls, parties, cellphones: California's prison inmates are getting bachelor's degrees," 12 July 2019 Sure, Oklahoma City was gearing up to make a run, agreeing to deals with Mike Muscala and Alec Burks early in free agency, tacking a couple more shooters on the roster. Chris Mannix, SI.com, "Thunder Preparing for Fresh Start After Dealing Russell Westbrook to Rockets," 12 July 2019 Later, Williams caught a pass in a similar spot, early in the shot clock, and fired up another shot that never really had a chance. Adam Himmelsbach, BostonGlobe.com, "Gifted Celtic Robert Williams remains a work in progress," 12 July 2019 But Warren’s proposal pushes the envelope on liberal immigration policy in a way that echoes Castro, who early in the cycle changed the national conversation from legalization to radically restricting enforcement. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Elizabeth Warren’s immigration proposal goes much further than a pathway to citizenship," 12 July 2019 Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who each won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, often skipped the Australian Open, and sometimes the French Open, early in their careers. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "Which Version of Serena Williams Is Headed to the Wimbledon Final?," 11 July 2019 For several pitches early in the game, deBrauwere's earpiece lost connection to the iPhone in his pocket, though the technology quickly recovered. Jacob Bogage, courant.com, "’Robot ump’ calls first Atlantic League baseball game with one hitch and no controversy," 11 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The earliest reports of red tides are from Japan in the 8th century. Tom Metcalfe, NBC News, "What is red tide?," 13 July 2019 The early report from ESPN is the Heat could be a landing spot for him. Dave Hyde, sun-sentinel.com, "Hyde: Losing out on Russell Westbrook isn’t a loss for Heat | Commentary," 12 July 2019 There were no early reports of injuries and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said there was no tsunami risk. Billy Perrigo, Time, "Magnitude-4.6 Earthquake Rattles Seattle Area Awake," 12 July 2019 According to earlier reports, the Rockets sent Paul to the Thunder along with first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026 and the rights to swap picks in two additional drafts. Julian Gill, Houston Chronicle, "'Absolute legend': J.J. Watt shares heartfelt message to Chris Paul after trade," 12 July 2019 The doll, produced in a limited quantity, comes with a stand, a Certificate of Authenticity, and an image collage of Bowie’s early career. Nick Romano, EW.com, "Barbie gets dolled up as David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust," 12 July 2019 In the negative column, the characters lose some of the expressiveness associated with traditional animation and its anthropomorphized designs, more of an issue in the early going than as momentum builds toward the climax. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'The Lion King' hits familiar notes in adapting Disney classic," 11 July 2019 The store was my early career, from emptying the garbage cans between the pumps, to loading boxes, to stocking the walk-in soda cooler — and finally, to working the register. Tony Rehagen, BostonGlobe.com, "Farewell to hot dog rollers and roadside chats: an elegy for the American gas station," 11 July 2019 Gadelha connects with the hardest combination of the early going a couple minutes in. Todd Martin, latimes.com, "UFC 239: Jon Jones defeats Thiago Santos; Nunes stops Holm," 6 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'early.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of early


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for early


Middle English erly, from Old English ǣrlīce, from ǣr early, soon — more at ere

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Statistics for early

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for early

The first known use of early was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for early



English Language Learners Definition of early

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: at or near the beginning of a period of time or a process, activity, series, etc.
: before the usual or expected time



English Language Learners Definition of early (Entry 2 of 2)

: existing or happening near the beginning of a period of time
: happening near the beginning of a process, activity, series, etc.
: coming or happening before the usual or expected time


ear·​ly | \ ˈər-lē How to pronounce early (audio) \
earlier; earliest

Kids Definition of early

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : at or near the beginning of a period of time woke up early early in my career
2 : before the usual or expected time arrived early


earlier; earliest

Kids Definition of early (Entry 2 of 2)

: occurring near the beginning or before the usual time early morning

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More from Merriam-Webster on early

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with early

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for early

Spanish Central: Translation of early

Nglish: Translation of early for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of early for Arabic Speakers

Comments on early

What made you want to look up early? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to complain fretfully

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