Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

early

2 adverb
     
early2 S1 W1 comparative earlier, superlative earliest
1 before the usual, arranged, or expected time [≠ late]:
We arrived early.
They must have come home early.
2 near the beginning of a period of time, event, process etc [≠ late]
early in
She went out early in the morning.
He was sent off early in the game.
early this/next/last year etc
The 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 on

at an early stage in a relationship, process etc:
I realized early on I'd never pass the exam.
early on in
We encountered problems early on in the project.

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