adj. ear·li·er, ear·li·est
1. Of or occurring near the beginning of a given series, period of time, or course of events: in the early morning; scored two runs in the early innings.
a. Of or belonging to a previous or remote period of time: the early inhabitants of the British Isles.
b. Of or belonging to an initial stage of development: an early form of life; an early computer.
3. Occurring, developing, or appearing before the expected or usual time: an early spring; an early retirement.
4. Maturing or developing relatively soon: an early variety of tomato.
5. Occurring in the near future: hoped for an early end to the negotiations.
adv. ear·lier, ear·liestIdiom:
a. Near the beginning of a given series, period of time, or course of events: departed early in the day; scored important victories early in the campaign.
b. At or near the beginning of the morning: She never used to get up so early.
2. At or during a remote or initial period: decided very early to go into medicine.
3. Before the expected or usual time: arrived at the meeting a few minutes early.
4. Soon in relation to others of its kind: a rose that was cultivated to bloom early.
At an early stage or point: Early on in the movie, the main character loses his job.
[Middle English erli, from Old English ǣrlīce : ǣr, before; see ayer- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots + -līce, adv. suff.; see -LY2.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus