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

Definition of early

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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 2)

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

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 Moeller quarterback Luke Dunn got his team going early. Cincinnati Enquirer, The Enquirer, 24 Sep. 2022 On Friday, the Tigers scored early and the White Sox answered late, but those runs from the White Sox weren't too much to overcome. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, 24 Sep. 2022 The big thing to note early from the Baka tribe in the game is that nobody from the Baka tribe seemed to want to play the game. Dalton Ross, EW.com, 22 Sep. 2022 Under truth in sentencing, can someone be released early from initial confinement? Sometimes. Ashley Luthern, Journal Sentinel, 21 Sep. 2022 Swiatek, 21, had solidified her status as a clay-court conqueror by winning the French Open for the second time in three years, but she was bounced early from subsequent tournaments. Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times, 10 Sep. 2022 The film is early in production, Docter said, and will come to theaters in summer 2024 and be directed by Kelsey Mann. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, 10 Sep. 2022 The violence unfolded just a few months after Kelly was released early from a three-year prison sentence for a pair of shootings in 2020. Adrian Sainz, Anchorage Daily News, 9 Sep. 2022 Tiffani Green alleges that her son, Kaidyn Green, walked alone in the hallways of his school after he was released early from his fourth-grade classroom and, eventually, left the building on his own. Omari Daniels, Washington Post, 9 Sep. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Alan Taylor, who directed some of the most formative episodes of the early seasons of Game of Thrones, is now stepping in to direct episodes of House of the Dragon, as well as executive produce, starting with season 2. Nick Romano, EW.com, 26 Sep. 2022 Before the expected impact in Florida, Ian was forecast to pass west of the Cayman Islands early Monday and then near western Cuba Monday night and early Tuesday, the NHC said. CBS News, 26 Sep. 2022 Some early risers drove those nine miles for $3.50. Luz Lazo, Washington Post, 26 Sep. 2022 In California, leisure and hospitality had the largest job loss of any sector in the early pandemic: 990,200 jobs vanished from February to April 2020, or 1 out of every 3, according to the state Employment Development Department. Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times, 26 Sep. 2022 Stocks fell again Monday after an early rally failed. WSJ, 26 Sep. 2022 Koby Levin is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering K-12 schools and early childhood education. Koby Levin, Detroit Free Press, 26 Sep. 2022 In the early Aughts, hotels in Las Vegas capitalized on restaurant-obsessive culture by recruiting big name restaurateurs from cities like New York and California in the hopes of luring affluent hotel guests by making the city a dining destination. Adam Reiner, Bon Appétit, 26 Sep. 2022 In his early seasons in Indiana, his mentor was Al Jefferson. Wilson Moore, The Indianapolis Star, 26 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near early




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for early

Last Updated

27 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Early.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/early. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for early


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

Early biographical name

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

Definition of Early

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

More from Merriam-Webster on early

Nglish: Translation of early for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of early for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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