Something that's early happens right at the beginning of some specific time period, or before you expect it to happen. An early party guest shows up before the party starts.

An early riser gets up with the sun every morning, and you might eat an early dinner at five in the evening. If you're in your early twenties, you're closer to 20 than 30, while the early 20th century was the time period before 1950. If a baby comes early, she's born before her expected due date. The Old English source is ærlice, "early," which comes from ær, "soon" or "ere."

Definitions of early
  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”
    aboriginal, primaeval, primal, primeval, primordial
    having existed from the beginning; in an earliest or original stage or state
    advance, beforehand
    being ahead of time or need
    archaean, archean
    of or relating to the earliest known rocks formed during the Precambrian Eon
    archaeozoic, archeozoic
    of or belonging to earlier of two divisions of the Precambrian era
    before the appearance of life
    earlier, earliest
    (comparative and superlative of `early') more early than; most early
    being somewhat early
    premature, untimely
    uncommonly early or before the expected time
    premature, previous
    too soon or too hasty
    formed in the later of two divisions of the Precambrian era
    indicating the first or earliest or original
    very early
    preceding all others in time or space or degree
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    between an earlier and a later period of time
    being or occurring at an advanced period of time or after a usual or expected time
    occurring or falling between events or points in time
    used in combination to denote the middle
    advanced, ripe
    far along in time
    after closing time especially a legally established closing time
    somewhat late
    occurring or coming into existence after a person's death
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  2. adjective
    being or occurring at an early stage of development
    “in an early stage”
    early forms of life”
    early man”
    “an early computer”
    archaic, primitive
    little evolved from or characteristic of an earlier ancestral type
    new, young
    (of crops) harvested at an early stage of development; before complete maturity
    crude, primitive, rude
    belonging to an early stage of technical development; characterized by simplicity and (often) crudeness
    embryonic, embryotic
    in an early stage of development
    inchoate, incipient
    only partly in existence; imperfectly formed
    appearing or developing early
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    late, later
    at or toward an end or late period or stage of development
    comparatively late in a course of development
    late-occurring (especially with reference to symptoms of a disease)
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  3. 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”
    of a very early stage in development
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    of a stage in the development of a language or literature between earlier and later stages
    of a later stage in the development of a language or literature; used especially of dead languages
    Modern, New
    used of a living language; being the current stage in its development
    in use after medieval times
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  4. adjective
    belonging to the distant past
    “the early inhabitants of Europe”
    synonyms: former, other
    earlier than the present time; no longer current
  5. adjective
    expected in the near future
    “look for an early end to the negotiations”
    yet to be or coming
  6. adjective
    very young
    “at an early age”
    immature, young
    (used of living things especially persons) in an early period of life or development or growth
  7. adverb
    during an early stage
    early on in her career”
    synonyms: early on
  8. adverb
    before the usual time or the time expected
    “she graduated early
    synonyms: ahead of time, too soon
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    belatedly, late, tardily
    later than usual or than expected
  9. adverb
    in good time
    synonyms: betimes
Word Family

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