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early

[ur-lee]
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adverb, ear·li·er, ear·li·est.
  1. in or during the first part of a period of time, a course of action, a series of events, etc.: early in the year.
  2. in the early part of the morning: to get up early.
  3. before the usual or appointed time; ahead of time: They came early and found their hosts still dressing.
  4. far back in time: The Greeks early learned to sail and navigate.
adjective, ear·li·er, ear·li·est.
  1. occurring in the first part of a period of time, a course of action, a series of events, etc.: an early hour of the day.
  2. occurring before the usual or appointed time: an early dinner.
  3. belonging to a period far back in time: early French architecture.
  4. occurring in the near future: I look forward to an early reply.
  5. (of a fruit or vegetable) appearing or maturing before most others of its type: early apples.
noun, plural ear·lies.
  1. a fruit or vegetable that appears before most others of its type.
Idioms
  1. early on, with but little time elapsed; early in the course of a process, project, etc.; early in the game.

Origin of early

before 950; Middle English erlich (adj.), erliche (adv.), Old English ǣrlīc, ǣrlīce, mutated variant of ārlīc, ārlīce, equivalent to ār- early (positive of ǣr ere) + līc(e) -ly
Related formsear·li·ness, noun

Synonyms

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5. initial. 6. beforehand, premature.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for earliest

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The earliest inhabitants of the world did not know what it was.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • They were Europeans, and their earliest home had been in the Isle of Crete.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • Was it not thus he had been from earliest childhood taught to look at them?

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Why, from my earliest years I had been accustomed to think of myself as plain, and had not cared.

  • From earliest childhood I saw a good deal of them, and I know what I say.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic


British Dictionary definitions for earliest

early

adjective -lier or -liest
  1. before the expected or usual time
  2. occurring in or characteristic of the first part of a period or sequence
  3. occurring in or characteristic of a period far back in time
  4. occurring in the near future
  5. at the earliest not before the time or date mentioned
  6. early days too soon to tell how things will turn out
adverb -lier
  1. before the expected or usual time
  2. near the first part of a period or sequenceI was talking to him earlier
Derived Formsearliness, noun

Word Origin

Old English ǣrlīce, from ǣr ere + -līce -ly ²; related to Old Norse arliga
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for earliest

early

adv.

Old English ærlic "early," from ær "soon, ere" (see ere) + -lice, adverbial suffix (see -ly (2)). Cf. Old Norse arliga "early." The early bird of the proverb is from 1670s. Related: Earlier; earliest.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with earliest

early

In addition to the idioms beginning with early

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.