ear·ly | \ˈər-lē \
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 \

Definition of Early (Entry 3 of 3)

Ju*bal \ˈjü-bəl \ 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

Deals Available Now Some offers are available early starting now through Prime Day. Jessica Suriano, azcentral, "How to shop like a pro during Amazon Prime Day," 12 July 2018 Top water bite has started early and late, try spooks, poppers, or buzz baits. Tyler Mahoney Special To The Star, kansascity, "Fishing report: Catfish action picking up in Kansas, Missouri lakes," 11 July 2018 Nothing is guaranteed, but Kavanaugh will be much likelier to join a decision overturning Roe v. Wade and giving states the ability to ban abortions as early as the first trimester. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "America under Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018 That study looked at about 1,300 infants starting at 3 months and divided them into two groups: one that was exclusively breastfed until 6 months and one where the babies started solid foods as early as 16 weeks. Ashley Welch, CBS News, "Why breastfeeding is the "gold standard" for babies' health," 10 July 2018 For staff at Educare, which serves low-income children who start as early as six weeks, this is familiar terrain. Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor, "For three families, Tulsa experiment offers chance to grasp American dream," 3 July 2018 Talbott said the village intends to bring bids for phase 1B to the board July 16, with work starting as early as late July and continuing into 2019. Anna Bybee-schier, chicagotribune.com, "Franklin Park moves forward with improvements at Reuters subdivision," 2 July 2018 Starting as early as Aug. 1, Republic Services Inc. will raise its rates for its recycling customers. Sarah Bowman, Indianapolis Star, "Recycling rates to double for many Indianapolis Republic Services customers to $100 per year," 29 June 2018 Classes run seven days a week and start as early as 5 a.m. For information about memberships, visit fueledbypower.com. Jeff Rumage, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "An indoor cycling studio with high-intensity workouts, separate weightlifting area is coming to Shorewood," 26 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In the 110th Massachusetts Amateur’s 36-hole final, Frodigh (Dedham C&PC) took an early lead and never relinquished it . Mia Berry, BostonGlobe.com, "Patrick Frodigh captures MassAm golf championship," 13 July 2018 In the finale, Fort Lauderdale jumped out to an early 5-0 lead by the third inning but the Mets chipped away and took a 7-5 lead. Emmett Hall, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Deerfield Beach Little League Junior Division All-Stars ready for trip to Florida's capital," 12 July 2018 Less than 24 hours after mounting a nine-run, 15-hit attack to halt a 10-game losing streak, the Royals’ pitching staff surrendered an early lead and lost to the Twins 8-5 at Target Field on Wednesday afternoon. Maria Torres, kansascity, "Unable to keep early lead vs. Twins, Royals drop another series," 11 July 2018 Indiana surged to an early 10-2 lead as Poythress scored seven in the opening 4 minutes. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana Pacers blow huge lead in NBA Summer League loss," 11 July 2018 England made a blistering start, surging into an early lead thanks to a stunning free-kick from Kieran Trippier. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Croatia tops England in extra time to reach World Cup final," 11 July 2018 After dropping 11 of 16 against left-handers, the Giants raced out to an early lead against Cubs southpaw Mike Montgomery thanks to the first career leadoff home run of Chase d’Arnaud’s career. Kerry Crowley, sacbee, "Buster Posey has hip pain, but he has Giants feeling good in walkoff win over Cubs," 11 July 2018 Hartford hopped ahead to an early 2-0 lead in the second thanks to plate discipline and smart base running. Shawn Mcfarland, courant.com, "Hartford, Glastonbury Legion Teams Meet At Dunkin Donuts Park," 3 July 2018 Some Mexicans have been yearning for a president from the left ever since 1988, when Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas lost an early lead after a technical glitch in vote counting (his supporters claimed the election was stolen). The Economist, "The victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador starts a new era in Mexico," 2 July 2018

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

7 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \
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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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).


a generally accepted meaning of a word

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