- 1 near 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) The earliest possible date I can make it is the third. He's in his early twenties. Mozart’s early works (= those written at the beginning of his career) Early booking is essential, as space is limited. The ruling overturned the court’s earlier decision. The earliest description of this species dates from 1703.
- 2 arriving, 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 make an early start tomorrow. She's an early riser (= she gets up early in the morning). He learnt to play the piano at an early age. early potatoes (= that are ready to eat at the beginning of the season) opposite late Word Origin Old English (as an adverb) ǣrlīce (see ere, -ly), influenced by Old Norse árliga. The adjective use dates from Middle English.Extra examples I have to get up ridiculously early. I’m sorry I’m a bit early. It’s a little early for lunch. These discoveries were made at a surprisingly early date. You’re here awfully early, aren’t you? He learned to play the piano at an early age. Let’s make an early start tomorrow. She’s an early riser. These are early potatoes. We had an early breakfast. You’re an early bird this morning! You’re early! I wasn’t expecting you till seven.Idioms (business) as soon as possible Please telephone at your earliest convenience. very early in the morning You're up bright and early today! (humorous) a person who gets up, arrives, etc. very early You’re an early bird this morning! (saying) the person who takes the opportunity to do something before other people will have an advantage over them to go to bed earlier or later than usual I've had a lot of late nights recently. (British English) used to say that it is too soon to be sure how a situation will develop It’s early days yet. We don’t know if the play will be a success.
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.