Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of or occurring near the beginning of a given series, period of time, or course of events.
  • adjective Of or belonging to a previous or remote period of time.
  • adjective Of or belonging to an initial stage of development.
  • adjective Occurring, developing, or appearing before the expected or usual time.
  • adjective Maturing or developing relatively soon.
  • adjective Occurring in the near future.
  • adverb Near the beginning of a given series, period of time, or course of events.
  • adverb At or near the beginning of the morning.
  • adverb At or during a remote or initial period.
  • adverb Before the expected or usual time.
  • adverb Soon in relation to others of its kind.
  • idiom (early on) At an early stage or point.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Pertaining to the first part or period of some division of time, or of some course in time; being at or near the beginning of the portion of time indicated or concerned: as, an early hour; early manhood; the early times of the church.
  • Appearing or occurring in advance of, or at or near the beginning of, some appointed, usual, or well-understood date, epoch, season, or event; being before the usual time: as, an early riser; early fruit; early (that is, premature) decay; early marriage.
  • Occurring in the near future: as, I shall take an early opportunity of calling on you; the petitioners asked that a meeting be called at an early date.
  • In embryology, very young; very recently formed: as, an early embryo.
  • Near the initial point of some reckoning in time; in or during the first part or period of some division of time, or of some course or procedure: as, come early; early in the day, or in the century; early in his career.
  • Synonyms Early, Soon, Betimes. Early is relative, and notes occurrence before some fixed or usual time, or before the course of time had far advanced beyond that point: as, he rose early (that is, he rose before the usual time of rising, or before the day had advanced far); he came early in the evening (that is, before the evening was far advanced); while in “come early” the meaning may be only “do not be late in your coming, or do not delay your coming beyond the set or accustomed time.” Soon means shortly, or in a short time after the present or some fixed point of time: as, come soon; he left soon after my arrival. Betimes (by time) means in good time for some specific object or all useful purposes: as, he rose betimes.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adverb Soon; in good season; seasonably; betimes.
  • adjective In advance of the usual or appointed time; in good season; prior in time; among or near the first; -- opposed to late
  • adjective Coming in the first part of a period of time, or among the first of successive acts, events, etc.
  • adjective (Philol.) See the Note under English.
  • adjective the first of the pointed or Gothic styles used in England, succeeding the Norman style in the 12th and 13th centuries.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective At a time in advance of the usual or expected event.
  • adjective Arriving a time before expected; sooner than on-time.
  • adjective Near the start or beginning.
  • adverb At a time before expected; sooner than usual.
  • noun A shift (scheduled work period) that takes place early in the day.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adverb before the usual time or the time expected
  • adjective of an early stage in the development of a language or literature
  • adverb in good time
  • adjective belonging to the distant past
  • adjective being or occurring at an early stage of development
  • adverb during an early stage
  • adjective very young
  • adjective at or near the beginning of a period of time or course of events or before the usual or expected time
  • adjective expected in the near future

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English erli, from Old English ǣrlīce : ǣr, before; see ayer- in Indo-European roots + -līce, adv. suff.; see –ly.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English erly, erli, Old English ǣrlīce, from ǣr ("before") + adverbial suffix -līce. Cognate with Old Norse árla ( > Danish and Norwegian årle, Swedish arla)

Examples

Comments

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  • adj: like, or pertaining to, a member of the aristocracy

    adv: in the manner of an ear

    November 3, 2007

  • I think early in Australia is also pronounced airly (a corrupted pronounciation?). I found this in Eva Langley's novel The Pea-Pickers (p. 5): "Yes, back in the airly days, I've heard my father speak of the Nils Desperandums of Sarsfield."

    September 24, 2012

  • ron, that sounds more like Irish to me - was character an immigrant?

    hat tip to sionnach's five year-old adverbial definition.

    September 27, 2012

  • I agree--sionnach's definitions are now old enough to be lied to about deinonychus taxonomy. How adorable!

    September 27, 2012

  • I don't just lie to children about dinosaurs. I'm an equal-opportunity fabulist. I lie to everyone about everything. Or do I ? Mwahahahahaha!!!!

    But why does this page have no mention of Biddy Early , the wise woman of County Clare.

    October 1, 2012

  • I'm trying to be more of an affirmative action fabulist, since I believe that some groups deserve special lying attention.

    October 1, 2012

  • You say that. But why should we believe you?

    October 1, 2012