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 Early (audio) \ Anderson 1816–1894 American Confederate general

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Other Words from early


earliness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for early

Synonyms: Adverb

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adverb

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of early in a Sentence

Adverb 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. Adjective 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 Starting early appears to be one key to better recovery outcomes. David Eddie, STAT, "People recover from addiction. They also go on to do good things," 3 May 2021 Of course, as Budenholzer said early in the season, going to the rim will always be Antetokounmpo’s fastball. Jim Owczarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Is Giannis close to his masterpiece after 49-point effort against the Brooklyn Nets?," 3 May 2021 Some critics have pointed to poor planning early in the rollout, when the Trump administration leaned heavily on CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate residents and staff members of long-term care facilities. NBC News, "CVS, Walgreens have wasted more Covid vaccine doses than most states combined," 3 May 2021 Wilson joined Goodson and Takitaki for most first-team reps early in training camp. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Browns Winners and Losers of the 2021 NFL Draft," 3 May 2021 Todd was a wishbone quarterback for Alabama, but that didn’t dissuade the Jets from taking him early in the 1976 NFL Draft. Mark Inabinett | Minabinett@al.com, al, "From Riley Smith to Mac Jones: Alabama’s drafted quarterbacks," 3 May 2021 The national average is 9,696 cases per 100,000 people, though the rates in states hard hit early in the pandemic may be an undercount because of a lack of available testing in March and April 2020. Alison Steinbach, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona reports 652 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths as trends hold relatively steady," 3 May 2021 The race also faced controversy, early in the voting season, when Brooks received backlash for posting a video of herself casting her ballot, while also wearing a campaign t-shirt. Brandi Addison, Dallas News, "Frisco incumbents reelected, city council Place 3 heads to a runoff," 3 May 2021 Smith broke the ice in the first period off a feed from Taylor Hall, then struck again early in the third on a dime from Mike Reilly. BostonGlobe.com, "Craig Smith of the Bruins was happy to see the hats flying at the Garden," 2 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In Texas, one measure would eliminate drive-through voting, which more than 127,000 people around Houston used during early voting last year. BostonGlobe.com, "Despite business warnings, GOP moves ahead with voting bills," 4 May 2021 Last week, a day before early voting ended, Trump made a surprise endorsement of Wright, and followed it up with a telephone town hall meeting sponsored by the anti-tax group called the Club for Growth. Dallas News, "Susan Wright vs. Jake Ellzey renews rivalry, with Donald Trump, Rick Perry as key players," 3 May 2021 The week before early voting began, the mayor parted ways with campaign director Ryan Garcia, who had helped Nirenberg in the runoff two years ago. Joshua Fechter, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg wins a third term as former Councilman Greg Brockhouse concedes," 2 May 2021 Iowa has also imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day. New York Times, "With Florida Bill, Republicans Continue Unrelenting Push to Restrict Voting," 30 Apr. 2021 That's an explosion in the use of mail and early voting compared to four years earlier, when just 40% of voters cast ballots that way. Nicholas Riccardi, ajc, "Census Bureau: 70% of voters cast ballots early or by mail," 30 Apr. 2021 One requires every county to offer two Saturdays of early voting, instead of just one, plus optional Sundays, though several more populous Democratic-heavy counties already offered two Saturdays. Alexa Corse, WSJ, "States’ New Voting Laws: What You Need to Know," 30 Apr. 2021 The final tally in municipal elections as well as races for township positions, school boards and library boards included ballots cast during early voting, mail-in ballots and votes cast April 6. Mike Nolan, chicagotribune.com, "Final election results show some close calls in south, southwest suburbs," 29 Apr. 2021 Drop boxes can only be at election supervisors' main and permanent branch offices or locations approved for early voting. Quinn Scanlan, ABC News, "Florida legislature passes election bill imposing new restrictions on mail-in voting," 29 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for early

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for early

Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Early.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/early. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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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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Nglish: Translation of early for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of early for Arabic Speakers

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