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[kount-doun] /ˈkaʊntˌdaʊn/
the backward counting in fixed time units from the initiation of a project, as a rocket launching, with the moment of firing designated as zero.
the final preparations made during this period.
a period of increasing activity, tension, or anxiety, as before a deadline.
Origin of countdown
1950-55, Americanism; noun use of verb phrase count down Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for countdown
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Although attentive, he was not tense, even during the countdown.

    Subspace Survivors

    E. E. Smith
  • It was like the countdown for a rocket firing, Rick thought.

    The Flaming Mountain Harold Leland Goodwin
  • The next night, the big news was the countdown in process at Canaveral to put a functioning "dome" on the moon.

    Prologue to an Analogue Leigh Richmond
  • He hoped the launching crew had gotten their fingers frozen off while they were going through the countdown.

    Pushbutton War Joseph P. Martino
  • By agreement, the countdown was to be broadcast to all aircraft over one of the airport frequencies.

    The Flaming Mountain Harold Leland Goodwin
British Dictionary definitions for countdown


the act of counting backwards to time a critical operation exactly, such as the launching of a rocket or the detonation of explosives
verb (intransitive, adverb)
to count numbers backwards towards zero, esp in timing such a critical operation
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for countdown

1953, American English, in early use especially of launches of rockets or missiles, from count (v.) + down.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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