Meaning of “early” in the English Dictionary

british dictionary

"early" in British English

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earlyadjective, adverb

uk /ˈɜː.li/ us /ˈɝː.li/ 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 a little early to be sowing carrot seeds, isn't it?
Henry Ford was a pioneer 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 early in the year, before most other 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.

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(Definition of “early” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"early" in American English

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earlyadjective, adverb [ -er/-est only ]

us /ˈɜr·li/

near the beginning of (a period of time), or before the usual, expected, or planned time:

I got up early this morning to walk the dog.
Sheena’s in her early thirties.
She arrived early for the interview.
If you finish early (= before the end of the allowed time) you can go home.
Detroit has been an automotive center since the early days/years (= the beginning time) of car manufacturing.
Here’s a dish I prepared earlier (= I made a short time ago).
It was a great race for Needles, who took the lead early on (= soon after the start).

(Definition of “early” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"early" in Business English

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uk /ˈɜːli/ us earlier, earliest
at your earliest convenience

used to ask someone to do something, or to say that you will do something as soon as possible:

Please give me a call back at your earliest convenience on extension one two four seven.

(Definition of “early” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)