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early Meaning, Definition & Usage

  1. adjective at or near the beginning of a period of time or course of events or before the usual or expected time
    • early morning
    • an early warning
    • early diagnosis
    • an early death
    • took early retirement
    • an early spring
    • early varieties of peas and tomatoes mature before most standard varieties
  2. adjective being or occurring at an early stage of development
    • in an early stage
    • early forms of life
    • early man
    • an early computer
  3. adjective satellite belonging to the distant past
    other; former.
    • the early inhabitants of Europe
    • former generations
    • in other times
  4. adjective satellite very young
    • at an early age
  5. adjective of an early stage in the development of a language or literature
    • the Early Hebrew alphabetical script is that used mainly from the 11th to the 6th centuries B.C.
    • Early Modern English is represented in documents printed from 1476 to 1700
  6. adjective satellite expected in the near future
    • look for an early end to the negotiations
  7. adverb during an early stage
    early on.
    • early on in her career
  8. adverb before the usual time or the time expected
    ahead of time; too soon.
    • she graduated early
    • the house was completed ahead of time
  9. adverb in good time
    betimes.
    • he awoke betimes that morning
WordNet

Ear"ly adverb
Etymology
OE. erli, erliche, AS. rlice; r sooner + lic like. See Ere, and Like.
Definitions
  1. Soon; in good season; seasonably; betimes; as, come early.
    Those that me early shall find me. Prov. viii. 17.
    You must wake and call me early. Tennyson.
Ear"ly adjective
Etymology
OE. earlich. . See Early, adv.
Wordforms
comparative Earlier ; superlative Earliest
Definitions
  1. In advance of the usual or appointed time; in good season; prior in time; among or near the first; -- opposed to late; as, the early bird; an early spring; early fruit.
    Early and provident fear is the mother of safety. Burke.
    The doorsteps and threshold with the early grass springing up about them. Hawthorne.
  2. Coming in the first part of a period of time, or among the first of successive acts, events, etc.
    Seen in life's early morning sky. Keble.
    The forms of its earlier manhood. Longfellow.
    The earliest poem he composed was in his seventeenth summer. J. C. Shairp.
    Syn. -- Forward; timely; not late; seasonable.

Webster 1913