From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary Englishearlyear‧ly1 /ˈɜːli $ ˈɜːrli/ ●●●S1W1 adjective (comparative earlier, superlative earliest)1first partBEGINNING in the first part of a period of time, event, or processthe early morning sunshinean afternoon in early springIn the early days, the railways mainly carried goods.She is in her early twenties.the recession of the early 1980sThe money could be paid as early as next week.He spent the early part of his career at St John’s Hospital.the experiences of early childhoodthe early works of ShakespeareMy earliest memories are of fruit trees.Early signs are encouraging.2before usualEARLYarriving or happening before the usual or expected time opp latefive minutes/three hours etc earlyThe bus was ten minutes early.early forI was a few minutes early for my appointment.David decided to take early retirement (=stop working before the normal age).She drank herself into an early grave (=died younger than is normal).3beginningEARLY used to emphasize that something has just begun, especially when you do not know how it will developIt’s too early to say what will happen.It’s early days yet. I don’t want to make any predictions.4new thing [only before noun]FIRST being one of the first people, events, machines etcEarly motor cars had very poor brakes.fossil evidence of early man5 →the early hours6 →an early start7 →at/from an early age8 →an early night9 →early bird/early riser10 →the early bird catches the worm11 →early potatoes/lettuces etcCOLLOCATIONSnounsearly morning/afternoon/eveningThe lake looked beautiful in the pale early morning light.early spring/summer etcThese plants produce flowers from early spring to late summer.early August/January etcItaly is lovely in early June, before it gets too hot.the early days/months/years of something (=the period of time near the beginning of something)In the early years of our marriage, we lived with my wife’s parents.in your early twenties/forties etc (=aged 20–23,40–43 etc)Both men are in their early twenties.the early 1920s/1970s etc (=1920–23,1970–73 etc)He lived in London in the early 1980s.somebody’s early childhood/adolescence/life (=when someone is a young child, adolescent etc)We’ve known each other since early childhood.an early stage (=near the beginning of a process)Patients can be treated with drugs, especially at the early stage of the disease.the early part of something (=near the beginning of an event or period of time)I was doing quite well in the early part of the race.somebody’s earliest memory (=the first thing you can remember about something from your past)One of my earliest memories is of being at a busy railway station, trying to find my mum.THESAURUSearly arriving or happening before the usual or expected timeFor once, the train arrived early.Let’s have an early lunch before we go.in good time especially British English early enough, so that you do not have to rush, or so that you have time to get readyEverything was ready for the party in good time.on time arriving somewhere or happening at the right timeThe bus was on time.The project was finished on time.ahead of time earlier than the time when you have arranged to do something or than when you need somethingThe building work was completed ahead of time.Some of the food can be prepared ahead of time.ahead of schedule earlier than the officially agreed timeThe prime minister called the elections early, five months ahead of schedule.with time to spare arriving somewhere or finishing something before the time when you have to arrive or finishWe got to the airport with plenty of time to spare.I finished the test with time to spare.first thing especially spoken immediately after you get up, or as soon as you start workI’ll telephone her first thing tomorrow.
Examples from the Corpus
early• By the early 1970s, partly preoccupied by family life, Tutin was seen far less in the theatre.• By early 1995, the business was close to bankruptcy.• The train was ten minutesearly.• earlyautomobiles• A financialpanicensued, as frantic as the earlierboom.• At other times, there may be signs of earlycancer.• Earlydetection of cancer improves the chances of survival.• Rush and others said earlyintervention to keep kids out of gangs is just as important as locking up youthfuloffenders.• Hey, you're early! It's only five o'clock.• the story of her early life in India• The keysimilarity for Freud lies in the dominance of unconscious processes both for infants and for early man.• We're planning to go to Barcelona in earlySeptember.• Many of the earliestsettlers here were from Sweden.• If we want to get to Las Vegas by noon, we'll have to make an early start.• Or has democracy itself been adapted to accommodateearliersuspicions and hostility?• a man in his early twenties• Accordingly, the psychiatry of the early twentieth centurybased its image of sanity on that model.• The records of early years tell little about Negroservitude in tobacco country.Early signs• There is some way to go in all this despite the promisingearly signs.• The early signs are not promising.• My sister, too, shows early signs of depression.• It is free of charge and can help to detectearly signs of health problems and prevent them developing.• And the early signs of that being altereddate back to the tough public spending rounds of the early 1980s.• There are early signs some would-bemigrants are hopingFox can do that.• There are already early signs that this mediaflexibleapproach to our markets is creatingopportunities to grow new revenuestreams:?• But as long as you spot the early signs you should be okay - just keep the redbits covered for a few days.early grave• I reckon that hat's in for an early grave.• The only thing you get out of that is an early grave.• Widows are suing the companies for deathbenefits, demandingcompensation for the loss of husbands worked into an early grave.• An early grave or the emigrantship.• Because if the indestructible Earnhardt can be put into an early grave, they all can.It’s early days• Anyway, it's early days.• It's early days and the market for acrylics needs to find its own level.• Sue: I appreciateit's early days, but what can you tell me about the Workstart Pilots?• It's early days for us, you and me, if you like.• It's early days yet and if it does happen I will up-date you with the information.• It's early days yet, Paul.• Look, it's early days yet.• There was nothing on show to lift the roof - but in this remarkablerenaissance, it's early days yet.earlyearly2 ●●●S1W1 adverb (comparative earlier, superlative earliest)1EARLYbefore the usual, arranged, or expected time opp lateWe arrived early.They must have come home early.2BEGINNINGnear the beginning of a period of time, event, process etc opp lateearly inShe went out early in the morning.He was sent off early in the game.early this/next/last year etcThe building should be finished early next year.The restaurant opened earlier this month.We want to start as early as possible.The disease is easy to treat if diagnosed early.3 →early onCOLLOCATIONSverbsarrive early/be earlySome of the guests arrived early.leave earlyI had to leave early, so I missed the end of the party.be/get/come home earlyYour father said he’d be home early.get up/wake up/be up earlySet the alarm for six – I have to be up early tomorrow.go to bed earlyI think I’ll go to bed early tonight.phrasesearly in the morning/afternoon/eveningWe set off early in the morning.early in May/June etcI usually go on holiday early in July.early in 1998/2004 etcWe moved to Manchester early in 2004.early in the year/century (=in the first part of the year or century)It was too early in the year for a lot of flowers.