ear|ly1 W1S1 [ˈə:li US ˈə:rli] adj comparative earlier superlative earliest
1¦(first part)¦
2¦(before usual)¦
4¦(new thing)¦
5 the early hours
6 an early start
7 at/from an early age
8 an early night
9 early bird/early riser
10 the early bird catches the worm
11 early potatoes/lettuces etc
[: Old English; Origin: Arlice, from Ar 'early, soon']
1.) ¦(FIRST PART)¦
in the first part of a period of time, event, or process
the early morning sunshine
an afternoon in early spring
In the early days , the railways mainly carried goods.
She is in her early twenties .
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.
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) .
used to emphasize that something has just begun, especially when you do not know how it will develop
It's too early to say whether the show will be a success.
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 sth
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
potatoes etc that are ready to be picked before any others
COLLOCATES for sense 1
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
early 2
early2 W1S1 adv 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.

Dictionary of contemporary English. 2013.

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