What countries is "early mark" used in? It means being let out of something, typically school, early.

onelook.com only reports it being mentioned in Urban Dictionary, and it doesn't have information on what varieties of English use it.

Google ngram isn't very useful - too many uses of early mark without it having the meaning above.

Oz Words is even claiming that it's only used in some parts of Australia, while Superlinguo says its reach extends as far as New Zealand.

Is "early mark" only used in Australia and New Zealand?

  • 4
    I've never heard it in the UK (or from elsewhere).
    – Hugo
    Jan 7, 2013 at 11:24
  • Me neither. How do you use it? "Someone gets an early mark"?
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 7, 2013 at 12:11
  • Common usage in Wagga Wagga NSW. Workmates in Melbourne have never heard the expression.
    – Kylie
    Oct 15, 2014 at 12:31
  • Never heard this phrase while growing up in New Zealand. First heard this year from a colleague in Perth - and they had to explain it to the locals, so it's not a WA saying either.
    – Pete
    Aug 1, 2019 at 7:08
  • Never heard this in the UK, Canada or US. Aug 2, 2019 at 12:12

3 Answers 3


I've never heard it in the UK, or from elsewhere.

Here's are three examples of how it's used, from Superlinguo:

  • Goddam. The one day I am not writing on question time, the PM gives everyone an early mark. Why is life so immeasurably cruel and unjust?

  • The net is down at work, but it doesn’t mean we can stop working or get an early mark… #fml #wtf

  • Early mark for coffee today. I heard the inner call at 2.40pm

Searching for the phrase on Twitter Map ("See and visualize twitter users tweets overlayed on a map") only gives three positive results, all from Australia:

  • 120dollarsfood from: Melbourne
    @iamevilcupcake Early mark.

  • Mel452 from: Sydney, Australia
    Woot early mark. It's so dead at work. Going crazee!

  • LyndonKeane from: St George, Queensland
    Due to a general lack of interest, I've decided to give myself an early mark.

Looking at early usage, an early mark was something that was earned in return for good results. Here's the October 2012 draft entry from the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

Early mark

Here's some interdatings. First, from "From Our Mail Bag" in the Worker (Brisbane, Qld.), 26 May 1952:

Dear Uncle Toby,
I am sending a coloured picture for Ihe competition. I had a test on Friday and received 90 per cent, in dictation and 87 1/2 per cent, in sums. I also received an "'early" mark. It is raining down here. I have a poisoned foot. — Your unseen niece.

And in "Football Briefs" of the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW), 5 May 1954:

Central's schoolteacher forward Cec Fields has some fans already. Saw one little chap offer him a
chewing gum as he left the field at half time. Warrant an early mark, Cec?

  • I have never heard it before, and do not know — well, did not — what it is intended to mean. I can see what the OP says about it supposedly meaning to be let off early, but this is alien to me.
    – tchrist
    Jan 7, 2013 at 14:22
  • 1
    The UK and Australia have a jocular POETS day: Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday.
    – Hugo
    Jan 7, 2013 at 14:31
  • 1
    It's (afaik) relatively common/understood over in Canberra. I recall hearing it pretty often during my time in the APS there. By extension, it's now part of my lingo, so I'll be inflicting it on the locals here in Perth, thus broadening it's reach :D
    – tanantish
    Jan 7, 2013 at 15:52
  • 1
    Thank you! Someone who explains what it means. (I'm reasonably au fait with the language, and have never come across this till now. I would have guessed at the meaning 'someone extremely gullible, one of the first to be scammed' or 'a principal target'. May 6, 2020 at 11:45

It certainly has been widely used in South East Queensland over my 60 odd years. Workers often talk about taking or getting "an early mark".


I have heard from a person who was at school in Australia in the Fifties that good academic marks could result in you being let home from school early, which might be the source of the term. Before this post I hadn't heard of the term "early mark". (living in Victoria)

  • This is the start of of a good answer. What might make it better is if you can provide a source to back up your claim or provide more detail that your personal experience is accepted in a wider sense.
    – Skooba
    May 12, 2020 at 13:15

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