American English

Definition of early adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    (earlier, earliest)
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  1. 1near the beginning of a period of time, an event, etc. the early morning my earliest memories The project is still in the early stages. the early 1990s in the early days of space exploration (= when it was just beginning) He's in his early twenties. Mozart's early works (= those written at the beginning of his career) The ruling overturned the court's earlier decision. The earliest description of this species dates from 1703.
  2. 2arriving or done before the usual, expected, or planned time You're early! I wasn't expecting you till seven. The bus was ten minutes early. an early breakfast Let's get/make an early start tomorrow. She's an early riser (= she gets up early in the morning). He learned to play the piano at an early age. early potatoes (= that are ready to eat at the beginning of the season) opposite late
    noun [uncountable] In spite of the earliness of the hour, there were crowds all over town.
  4. Idioms
    at your earliest convenience (business)
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    as soon as possible Please call at your earliest convenience.
    bright and early
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    very early in the morning You're up bright and early today!
    an early bird (humorous)
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    a person who gets up, arrives, etc. very early You're an early bird this morning!
    the early bird catches the worm (saying)
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    a person who takes the opportunity to do something before other people will have an advantage over them
    have an early/a late night
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    to go to bed earlier or later than usual I've had a lot of late nights recently.
    the small/early hours (also the wee hours)
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    the period of time very early in the morning, soon after midnight We worked well into the small hours. The fighting began in the early hours of Saturday morning.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: early