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

Students learn early in life the importance of committing the time, talents and resources to better the lives of the less fortunate, to make life better for the greater community, to give of themselves for a cause greater than themselves. Hermine Saunders, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Saunders: Plenty of time to make our age number valuable and our lives meaningful," 9 Aug. 2019 Buses had been lined up since early in the day to be dispatched to the plants. Jeff Amy, Fortune, "Buses of Workers Taken From Koch Foods in Mississippi Immigration Raids," 7 Aug. 2019 Those who worked out early in the morning at 7 a.m. reduced their post-workout blood pressure by 10 percent. Gabrielle Kassel, Health.com, "The Best Time To Work Out Is Actually In The Morning—Here's Why," 6 Aug. 2019 More than a dozen people were wounded, one of them fatally, in a pair of mass shootings in the Lawndale neighborhood early Sunday. CBS News, "At least 46 people were shot in Chicago over the weekend, including seven who were killed," 5 Aug. 2019 Investigators eventually linked Mellon to the dog theft when a woman called police early Thursday, claiming her truck had been stolen. Fox News, "Colorado woman arrested after stealing dog from man having seizure, police say," 4 Aug. 2019 Frustrated with his inability to drop his opponent despite an early dominance, Ibarra changed all that with a left-right combination to the body early in the round. John Whisler, ExpressNews.com, "Minus jab, Arredondo relies on power to knock out foe," 4 Aug. 2019 Four-star big man Zeke Nnaji has been getting early rave reviews in practice. Max Meyer, SI.com, "Pac-12 Offseason Report: Power Rankings and Burning Questions for 2019-20," 23 July 2019 In fact, Calderon said their first lessons were borderline disasters based on the athlete’s early impatient manner in her game. Vincent Nguyen, Burbank Leader, "Burroughs grad Beihold’s talents stretch far beyond being All-American fencer," 19 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The Imperial Household Agency said doctors found Michiko had early-stage breast cancer in a regular health check in July. Washington Post, "Japan’s ex-Empress Michiko has early stage breast cancer," 10 Aug. 2019 Born to a farming family in North Carolina on Dec. 28, 1944, Mullis was interested in chemistry and science at an early age. Peter Fimrite, SFChronicle.com, "Kary Mullis, eccentric Berkley-educated chemistry Nobelist, dies," 10 Aug. 2019 Amphorae discovered on the other wrecks were the 2nd and 1st-centuries B.C. and the early Christian period. Fox News, "Stunning cargo-laden ancient shipwrecks discovered off Greek island," 10 Aug. 2019 Some of the earliest viewers of Saucedo’s video of the shooting were journalists. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, "The Trauma, Fear, and Confusion of Making a Viral Video of a Massacre," 10 Aug. 2019 As a player Mr Solskjaer was one of a handful of youngsters who thrived under Sir Alex, winning a slew of trophies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. M.j., The Economist, "Man City’s and Liverpool’s rivals have copied their transfer strategy," 10 Aug. 2019 Louis to distance herself from some of the emotional baggage of her earlier campus activism. Timothy Williams, New York Times, "The Lives of Ferguson Activists, Five Years Later," 10 Aug. 2019 This visit from Anthony Santander’s family came in a week when the 24-year-old Venezuelan outfielder continued to solidify himself as one of the early success stories of the Orioles’ rebuild. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "Orioles’ Anthony Santander proving worth the cheers as he rounds into consistent major league hitter," 9 Aug. 2019 Lana Del Rey is helping to kick off the Halloween season a little early — but no one’s complaining. Jen Juneau, PEOPLE.com, "Lana Del Rey Releases 'Season of the Witch' Cover for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — Listen," 9 Aug. 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

12 Aug 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).


a haphazard or makeshift solution

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