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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from early


earliness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for early

Synonyms: Adverb

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adverb

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb After becoming the first major Democrat to enter the 2020 race last year, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren quickly began campaigning in Iowa, visiting several of the state's major cities and hiring people in the area as early as January. NBC News, "What 2020 Democrats can (and can't) learn from Obama's historic Iowa win," 29 Nov. 2019 Women younger than 45 should be given the choice to start annual mammograms as early as age 40, the organization says. Jen Christensen, CNN, "MRI screening for women with extremely dense breast tissue reduces interval cancer," 27 Nov. 2019 Dutch immigrants, who are widely credited with helping to develop the celery business in the United States, started growing the vegetable as early as 1874 near Kalamazoo, Michigan, which was subsequently nicknamed Celery City. The New York Times News Service Syndicate, The Denver Post, "Celery: Behold the heart of Thanksgiving," 27 Nov. 2019 The World Health Organization recommends starting three-drug antiretroviral treatment in infected children as early as possible, yet this goal has proved elusive in most pediatric HIV treatment programs globally. Gbolahan Ajibola, The Conversation, "Treating HIV in the tiniest babies could have huge positive implications for their future," 27 Nov. 2019 Online stock trading actually predates the modern web; a small outfit called PCFN, later DLJdirect, offered trading through the Prodigy online service as early as 1987. Owen Thomas, SFChronicle.com, "Charles Schwab bought TD Ameritrade because we’re bored with stock trading," 27 Nov. 2019 According to Denby head coach Deon Godfrey, the racist remarks included the N-word and began as early as when Denby players took a knee during the national anthem before the game. Chris Thomas, Mick Mccabe And Brandon Folsom, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Denby coach says Almont fans hurled racial slurs at players during confrontation," 25 Nov. 2019 Kohl’s, Nordstom, Macy’s, and Target will also start their sales early. Marc Bain, Quartz, "Retailers feel the squeeze as Black Friday-type sales multiply around the globe," 25 Nov. 2019 The Calculus Project is now in all of the district’s middle and K-8 schools, serving more than 2,000 students, with the same goal of giving help to students who might not otherwise start algebra so early. Leslie Postal, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Orange schools fall short of goal for more minority students to take calculus," 23 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective To highlight earlier experiences without presenting too much information, consider the byline technique. Dear Sam | Expert Resume, al, "How to build an engaging resume before applying for your dream job," 15 Nov. 2019 But earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the bills need new security features, and won’t be ready until 2026 at the earliest. NBC News, "Why 'Harriet' doesn't mention the $20 bill," 15 Nov. 2019 This early experience informs Wells’s überpersonal fourth novel, The End of Loneliness (Penguin Books), an international phenomenon that won the European Union Prize for Literature. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "The Best Novels of 2019," 14 Nov. 2019 Special attention: Wilson Mills Road A Home Depot employee reported Nov. 8 that earlier in the day, a customer had asked an associate several questions about the store’s security cameras. cleveland, "Car stolen from gas station: Highland Heights Police Blotter," 14 Nov. 2019 Vanderbilt pulled within three early in the second period before UConn started to pull away. Alexa Philippou, courant.com, "‘This time, I mean it’: Geno Auriemma says things aren’t going to be easy this season following up-and-down Vanderbilt win," 14 Nov. 2019 Benjamin’s quarterback keeper a play later made it 14-7 early in the second quarter. Alvaro Montano, Houston Chronicle, "Cy Creek opens playoffs with victory over Westside," 14 Nov. 2019 In Indianapolis, the National Weather Service said Tuesday morning’s frigid temperature of 8 degrees set the record for the coldest temperature this early in the season. John Ismay, New York Times, "The Arctic Plunge: From Feeling Like 92 to Freezing in a Day," 12 Nov. 2019 The 2020-21 school year will end June 18 at the earliest, if instructional days are not disrupted by inclement weather. Taylor Deville, baltimoresun.com, "Before or after Labor Day? Maryland school boards debate 2020-21 calendar start date," 11 Nov. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about early

Time Traveler for early

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for early

Last Updated

2 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Early.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/earliness. Accessed 5 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for early


How to pronounce Early (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on early

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for early

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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 accept, comply, or submit

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!