j. early

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World English Dictionary
early (ˈɜːlɪ)
 
adj , -lier, -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
 
adv , -lier, -liest, -lier
7.  before the expected or usual time
8.  near the first part of a period or sequence: I was talking to him earlier
 
[Old English ǣrlīce, from ǣrere + -līce-ly²; related to Old Norse arliga]
 
'earliness
 
n

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

early
O.E. ærlice, from ær "soon, ere" (from P.Gmc. *airiz, from PIE *ayer- "day, morning") + -lice "-ly," adverbial suffix (see -ly (2)). The early bird of the proverb is from 1670s. Related: Earlier; earliest.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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