arriving or happening before the usual or expected time:
• For once, the train arrived early. • Let’s have an early lunch before we go.
in good time
especially British English early enough, so that you do not have to rush, or so that you have time to get ready:
• Everything was ready for the party in good time.
arriving somewhere or happening at the right time:
• The bus was on time. • The project was finished on time.
ahead of time
earlier than the time when you have arranged to do something or than when you need something:
• The building work was completed ahead of time. • Some of the food can be prepared ahead of time.
ahead of schedule
earlier than the officially agreed time:
• The Prime Minister called the elections early, five months ahead of schedule.
with time to spare
arriving somewhere or finishing something before the time when you have to arrive or finish:
• We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. • I finished the test with time to spare.
especially spoken immediately after you get up, or as soon as you start work:
• I’ll telephone her first thing tomorrow.
adj. VERBS be, feel, seem ADV. extremely, really, very | a bit, fairly, a little, quite, rather, relatively I'm sorry I'm a bit early. | surprisingly These discoveries were made at a surprisingly early date. PREP. for It's a little early for lunch. | in He discovered these pleasures early in life.
Oxford Collocations Dictionary
• The lake looked beautiful in the pale early morning light.
early spring/summer etc
• These plants produce flowers from early spring to late summer.
early August/January etc
• Italy is lovely in early June, before it gets too hot.
the early days/months/years of something
(= the period of time near the beginning of something )
• In the early years of our marriage, we lived with my wife’s parents.
in your early twenties/forties etc
(= aged 20–23, 40–43 etc )
• Both men are in their early twenties.
the early 1920s/1970s etc
(= 1920–23, 1970–73 etc )
• He lived in London in the early 1980s.
sb’s early childhood/adolescence/life
(= when someone is a young child, adolescent etc )
• We’ve known each other since early childhood.
an early stage
(= near the beginning of a process )
• Patients can be treated with drugs, especially at the early stage of the disease.
the early part of something
(= near the beginning of an event or period of time )
• I was doing quite well in the early part of the race.
sb’s earliest memory
(= the first thing you can remember about something from your past )
• One of my earliest memories is of being at a busy railway station, trying to find my mum.
In addition to the idioms beginning with EARLY, Also see BRIGHT AND EARLY.
American Heritage Idioms
He was an early riser in the morning.
Early man did not have fire to cook.
You must come early to the dinner.