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English definition of “early”

early

adjective, adverb uk   /ˈɜː.li/ us    /ˈɝː-/ (earlier, earliest)
A1 near the beginning of a period of time, or before the usual, expected, or planned time: If you finish early you can go home. If you arrived earlier, you'd have more time. I like being a little early for interviews. They scored two goals early (on) in the game. I hate having to get up early (in the morning). I'm going to have an early night (= go to sleep before my usual time). She was a poet living in the early 15th century. He learned to read at the early age of three. It's rather early to be sowing carrot seeds, isn't it? Mercedes were pioneers during the early days/years of car manufacture. My earliest (= first) memory is of being shown around our new house. These are some of my early (= first) attempts at sculpture. Here's a dish I prepared earlier (= I made a short time ago). Early flowers and vegetables are ones that are ready before ordinary ones. at the earliest C2 used after a date or time to show that something will not happen before then: I'm very busy, so I won't be with you till four o'clock at the earliest.
(Definition of early from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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