Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Language: Old English
Origin: ærlice, from ær 'early, soon'

early

1 adjective
     
ear‧ly1 S1 W1 comparative earlier, superlative earliest
1

first part

in the first part of a period of time, event, or processCOLLOCATIONS COLLOCATIONS
early morning/afternoon/evening early spring/summer etc early August/January etc in the early days/months/years (=in the beginning) in your early twenties/forties/seventies etc (=aged 20-23, 40-43, 70-73 etc) the early 1920s/1980s/90s etc (=1920-1923, 1980-1983, 1990-1993 etc) as early as (=used for emphasizing an early time) the early stages/part (of something) somebody's early life/childhood/adolescence etc somebody's early songs/books/work etc somebody's early memories (=the things someone remembers from when they were very young) early signs/indications
the early morning sunshine
an afternoon in early spring
In the early days, the railways mainly carried goods.
the recession of the early 1980s
The 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 childhood
the early works of Shakespeare
My earliest memories are of fruit trees.
Early signs are encouraging.
2

before usual

arriving or happening before the usual or expected time [≠ late]
five minutes/three hours etc early
The bus was ten minutes early.
early for
I 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).
3

beginning

used to emphasize that something has just begun, especially when you do not know how it will develop:
It's too early to say what will happen.
It's early days yet. I don't want to make any predictions.
4

new thing

[only before noun] being one of the first people, events, machines etc:
Early motor cars had very poor brakes.
fossil evidence of early man
5

the early hours

the time between midnight and morning:
I didn't finally get to bed until the early hours.
in the early hours of something
The attack happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.
6

an early start

a start made very early in the day because you have a lot to do, far to go etc:
We need to make an early start tomorrow.
7

at/from an early age

when you are very young, or starting when you were very young:
She's played tennis from a very early age.
8

an early night

if you have an early night, you go to bed earlier than usual [≠ a late night]
have/get an early night
I think I'll get an early night.
9

early bird/early riser

someone who always gets up very early in the morning
10

the early bird catches the worm

used to say that if you do something early or before other people, you will be successful
11

early potatoes/lettuces etc

HBP potatoes etc that are ready to be picked before any others

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