1. Someone or something that has been defeated, or nearly so.
2. Out of commission. When referring to a person, it can mean they are unable to function normally, usually because of sickness or injury.
Example: Jack’s business has been struggling all year long. He tried making some improvements in order to curb this downhill trend, but nothing seems to be working. He believes that if things continue as they are, his business will be down for the count in as little as two months.
In other words, his business will soon be non-functional.
Origin Of ‘Down For The Count’
It’s believed that this phrase comes from boxing. Here’s why:
In boxing, two fighters enter an arena, and the audience watches from afar as the fighters try and knock out their opponent by throwing punches. If one of them gets knocked down from a punch, then the referee starts to slowly count to ten. While the ref is counting, the downed boxer has to stand back up on his feet in order for the fight to continue. However, if he does not get back up before the ref counts to ten, then it’s ruled that he’s been knocked out and the fight ends.
Thus, being “down for the count” refers to the time when a boxer is literally down on the floor and the referee begins to count (as depicted in the picture above).
The earliest I could find this phrase in print is in the Newark Daily Advocate newspaper, 1900:
“Jack root, the undefeated middleweight of Chicago at Tattersall’s obtained the decision over Dick O’Brien of Lewiston, Maine, at the end of six rounds, after one of the fiercest battles ever witnessed in this city. O’Brien was in poor condition or probably the result would have been different, as he had Root down for the count three times in the second round.”
- The basketball team I was rooting for was at a big deficit in the 4th quarter, so I thought they were down for the count, but they actually made a comeback in the final minutes.
- My front lawn is down for the count, probably because I haven’t been watering it as much as I should.
Note: The quotes you see that contain the phrase can give you an idea on how old the phrase is. For example, the quote for this expression is from the year 1900. That means it is at least 118 years old.
I generally try to find the oldest known quotes of the expression being used. Of course, it’s possible older citations exist, and I missed them. If so, whoops!