早 (zǎo) means "early" in Chinese. It is often used in morning greetings. Both 早安 (zǎo ān) and 早上好 (zǎo shang hǎo) mean "good morning." In Cantonese-speaking areas, 早晨 (zǎo chen) is how people say "good morning." Sometimes, just a quick 早 is a colloquial way of saying good morning.
Other Chinese words or phrases that include the character 早 usually have to do with the morning or being early. For example, 早饭 (zǎo fàn) or 早餐 ( zǎo cān) both mean breakfast.早衰 (zǎoshuāi) and 早产 (zǎo chǎn) mean premature aging and premature birth respectively.
The Chinese character 早 (zǎo) is made of two components. The top element is 日 (r ì), which on its own is the character for "sun." But 日 is also a radical, called the sun radical or also identified as radical #72.
The lower element of the character is 十. This looks like the modern Chinese character for the number 10, 十 (s hí), but that is not what this element is alluding to.
The symbol 十 is an old form of 甲 (jiǎ). Now, 甲 means “first” or “armor.” Thus, 早 is a pictogram of the sun rising over a soldier's helmet. Therefore another way of interpreting 早 (zǎo) is “the first sun.”
早 (zǎo) is pronounced in the third tone, which is often described as the falling-rising tone. When you pronounce the syllable, make the pitch go down low and then bring it back up high.
Mandarin Vocabulary with Zǎo
|Zǎo ān||早安||good morning|
|Zǎo shang||早上||early morning|
|Zǎo xiān||早先||previously; before|
|Zǎo yǐ||早已||long ago; for a long time|