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1. verb To count backwards from any number to zero in preparation for something (which typically happens when the countdown reaches zero). Everyone counted down the seconds and then shouted, "Happy New Year!"
2. verb By extension, to wait for something impatiently. At this point, I'm counting down the days to my due date because I'm so sick of being pregnant!
3. noun The act of counting backwards from any number to zero in preparation for something (which typically happens when the countdown reaches zero). When used as a noun, the phrase is usually written as one word. At the end of the countdown, everyone shouted, "Happy New Year!"
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
to count backwards to an event that will start when zero is reached. The project manager was counting down—getting ready for the launch of the rocket. I can still hear the captain counting down: "Five, four, three, two, one, zero, blast off!"
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Count backward from any number to zero to indicate time, as in The final seconds before take off were counted down: 10, 9, 8, etc. The down in this term refers to the decreasing size of the numbers. This usage originated in connection with the firing of missiles and spacecraft and has since been broadened to such events as the roll call of states at a political convention. [c. 1950]
2. Make final preparations for an event, as in Hong Kong was counting down to the day when it became part of mainland China. This usage is derived from def. 1. [Late 1950s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To count backward to zero, especially when leading to the start of an important event: With only ten seconds until midnight, the crowd counted down to the beginning of the new year.
2. To anticipate something eagerly: The children are counting down to their summer vacation.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.