If you say "happy birthday" a day late, it's a "belated happy birthday".

What about when you say it one day early? Is there a single word fitting this definition?


5 Answers 5



Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct answer.

  • Sorry - I'm certainly not going to downvote because it would be stretching a point to say this is "wrong". But I'm in no doubt that when you take account of "register" (and indeed, semantic connotations), George's premature wins hands down. Mar 7, 2014 at 23:41
  • @FumbleFingers I put as much effort into the answer as the poster put into the question.
    – David M
    Mar 7, 2014 at 23:47
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    Given the Freudian connotations associated with "premature", and the fact that people actually talk about "early birthday wishes" but not "premature birthday wishes", I think "early" is a far better choice. Furthermore, "premature" has other connotations (e.g. "unwarranted", "possibly unnecessary") that are not present in "belated").
    – JLRishe
    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:50

Belated has a negative connotation. It is not just "late", so I do not think its opposite is early. "Premature" is a word that denotes early that has a negative connotation.

  • 3
    I'd say it's more apologetic than negative in connotation. Mar 7, 2014 at 23:27
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    I think this is unquestionably the right answer, because belated and premature are in the same "register" (just as early and late are both in the same different register). Another possibility might be anticipatory, but that's getting into an even more high-flown, almost "poetical" register. Mar 7, 2014 at 23:39
  • @Fumble Good point, agreed. This answer still rubs me the wrong way, though. Why would you want a negative connotation in this context? Is it bad to wish somebody an early happy birthday? Mar 8, 2014 at 0:08
  • 2
    Or to put it another way, if belated has negative connotations, shouldn't the opposite be positive? Mar 8, 2014 at 0:19
  • 4
    If I said that your announcement as to the correctness of this answer is premature, some may take it that I mean you are making a claim that might be invalidated by future events. Generally that's not the case with birthday greetings, but not always. Nevertheless, premature means before the usual time. Birthday greetings the week before are early. Birthday greetings 8 months before are premature. Mar 8, 2014 at 0:39

If you say "happy birthday" a day early, it's a "preemptive happy birthday".

@DavidM points out rightly that preemptive implies something is prevented from happening. This could be mean:

  • prevention of the shame of forgetting if you wait
  • forestalling someone else from being first
  • avoiding the recipient's disappointment if you should forget

The OP's use of belated has become very conventional. I suggest part of its charm is its formality. "I want to wish you a preemptive happy birthday," has at least a hint of whimsy.

Edit: after a long and witty repartee, @DavidM and I established that he thinks the adjective preemptive could be misconstrued as to apply to the noun birthday. As a tall brick house is a house that's both tall and made of bricks, not a house made of tall bricks. But I countered that the noun phrase happy birthday is so cohesive that most listeners would think the adjective applied to the pair. He agrees it works spoken, but it still makes him cringe written.

  • Preemptive means to prevent or forestall. I assume you don't wish to prevent their birthday from proceeding, so this is wrong.
    – David M
    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:33
  • Good point, @DavidM. But I think it's not a happy birthday wish to prevent the birthday, it could prevent other things (see answer).
    – Bob Stein
    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:43
  • In that case, you would say I preemptively wish you a happy birthday. Not, a preemptive happy birthday.
    – David M
    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:49
  • The speaking of the words "happy birthday" is what does the preventing, so to precede them with the adjective is not incorrect or misleading. Still I'll remember which one to use the day before your birthday, @DavidM.
    – Bob Stein
    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:52
  • Eh . . . You're reaching.
    – David M
    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:54

To compete with myself, beforehand is in about the register of belated but is more neutral than premature and might be more fitting since the OP's example was one day early, not 8 months early.


But it is not the right part of speech, of course.


Birthday greetings ripening ahead of schedule are precocious. ;-)

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