At or near the start of a period, development, or series
Of, existing, or occurring in a distant period
Developing, occurring, or appearing before the expected time
Before the expected time
Near the beginning
Sooner than might have been expected
It's late and I have to get up early tomorrow.
It was early in the spring, just after I had learned to speak.
Early in the morning.
It was early morning when Howie first intruded.
He left early each Friday afternoon, often returning late on Monday morning.