early - definition and synonyms


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  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