Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

early - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

adjective     early pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
  1. 1
    [usually before noun] near the beginning of a period of time

    In the early 1980s, several thousand jobs were lost.

    The temperature drops to below freezing in the early evening.

    The plants flower in early spring.

    1. a.
      used about periods in someone’s life

      From an early age, Chaplin believed in his talents.

      memories of my early childhood

      Julia is in her early thirties.

    2. b.
      used about the first part of an activity, process, or event

      The project is still in its very early stages.

      It is too early to predict whether the unemployment rate has peaked.

      in the early days (=soon after something began):

      We didn’t think much about the environment in those early days.

  2. 2
    before the time that something usually happens

    Spring was unusually early that year.

    Let’s have an early lunch and then go to the cinema.

    Is it too early to phone them?

    1. a.
      before the time that something is expected or arranged to happen

      My train was ten minutes early.

      early for:

      You’re a little early for the party.

  3. 3
    used about the first people or things of a particular type

    The early settlers used to heat their cabins with coal.

    early editions of the novel

  4. 4
    early crops or flowers are ready to be picked before others of the same type
  • Facebook
  • Twitter


a rainbow produced when water droplets in the air reflect light from the moon rather than the sun

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary

platform capitalism

a way of doing business that involves recruiting large numbers of people who work for themselves using the company's platform, as used by companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and the like

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play