Definition of early adverb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈɜːli//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈɜːrli//
    (earlier, earliest)
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  1. 1  near the beginning of a period of time, an event, a piece of work, etc. early in the week/year/season/morning The best rooms go to those who book earliest. We arrived early the next day. We meet the hero quite early in the film. He started writing music as early as 1989. opposite late
  2. 2  before the usual, expected or planned time The bus came five minutes early. I woke up early this morning. The baby arrived earlier than expected. I arrived a few minutes early for my interview. early flowering plants opposite late
  3. 3  earlier before the present time or the time mentioned As I mentioned earlier… a week earlier She had seen him earlier in the day. opposite later
  4. Word OriginOld English (as an adverb) ǣrlīce (see ere, -ly), influenced by Old Norse árliga. The adjective use dates from Middle English.Idioms  at an early stage of a situation, relationship, period of time, etc. I knew quite early on that I wanted to marry her.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: early