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

Deforestation peaked in the late 90s and early 2000s when some 10,000 hectares were being burned annually. Felipe Araujo, The New Republic, "The Best Way to Fight Fires in the Amazon," 5 Sep. 2019 The 28-year-old artist, whose real name is Willie Maxwell, was arrested early Sunday on three counts of battery after an incident at the Mirage, according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. USA TODAY, "Cat burglar, prison bats, USS Arizona Memorial: News from around our 50 states," 4 Sep. 2019 Brown appeared during one episode to visit her friend Demi Burnett, while Godwin dominated the narrative of the series’ early episodes, finding herself at the center of a love triangle also involving Dylan and Blake. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, "Another Alabama native sweats out awkward moments on ‘Bachelor in Paradise’," 4 Sep. 2019 As the brief initial responses via critics tweeting after early screenings signaled, the responses are mixed. Nick Romano, EW.com, "It Chapter Two," 3 Sep. 2019 But in recent years, archaeologists have found numerous sites and artifacts older than that migration timeline, suggesting that early humans didn’t travel through the ice but followed the coast, likely using boats. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Idaho Site Shows Humans Were in North America 16,000 Years Ago," 30 Aug. 2019 That’s why Florida State and Boise State need to play this game as early possible — either Friday night or early Saturday. Mike Bianchi, orlandosentinel.com, "With Hurricane Dorian bearing down, FSU and Boise State need to move up or cancel game | Commentary," 28 Aug. 2019 This allows students to complete the FAFSA as early as possible to understand and compare aid packages and financial options, instead of having to wait on more recent tax returns. David J. Nguyen, The Conversation, "5 things to consider before taking out a student loan," 28 Aug. 2019 Originally, Astrobotic had hoped to launch the first Peregrine mission on ULA’s currently operational vehicle, the Atlas V rocket, as early as this year. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Moon delivery startup Astrobotic picks future Vulcan rocket to launch first lunar mission," 19 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Much of the best entertainment in the early stages Saturday came in the field, some of it expected — Chapman’s regular astonishing work, ho hum — and some of it almost accidental. Susan Slusser, SFChronicle.com, "Giants win when A’s bullpen collapses," 24 Aug. 2019 Johnson, who entered the military in July 2017, appears to be in his early 20s. Paul Duggan, Washington Post, "Marine failed to properly unload his pistol before fatal shooting of fellow Marine, prosecutor says," 24 Aug. 2019 This week, reporters at Apple news site 9to5Mac got early access to Apple Arcade and revealed that Apple may charge $4.99 monthly for access. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "Apple’s Quiet Summer Will Soon Give Way to New iPhones, Macs, and More," 24 Aug. 2019 Fourteen points in 14 seconds — that’s all Chaminade needed to break out of an early funk and take a lead against McArthur. Adam Lichtenstein, sun-sentinel.com, "After slow start, Chaminade takes down cross-town rival McArthur," 24 Aug. 2019 Milwaukee police said the investigation was in the early stages but that no foul play was suspected. Talis Shelbourne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Body found behind business on Milwaukee's south side," 24 Aug. 2019 As part of an early National Dog Day celebration — the true holiday is on August 26 — ESPN2 is literally going to the dogs on Saturday. Kelli Bender, PEOPLE.com, "This Saturday ESPN is Playing Air Bud and Letting Dogs Do the News for ESPN Dog Day," 23 Aug. 2019 Byrne was an early investor in internet commerce, buying Overstock in 1999 and developing it into a multi-million-dollar business, despite the growth of competitors like Amazon. Billy Perrigo, Time, "The Overstock CEO Resigned Claiming 'Deep State' Conspiracy and a Relationship With a Russian Spy. Here's What to Know," 23 Aug. 2019 Though these singles have yet to be canonized in the manner of her earlier hits, several of them should be. David Cantwell, The New Yorker, "Tanya Tucker’s New Album Might Be the Best of Her Long, Underrated Career," 23 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

9 Sep 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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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