Further to my previous question on the expression in Time magazine’s November. 10, 2011 article “China’s Century or India’s?”, there was the following sentence in the same article:

“The country (China) continues to run a huge current account surplus and will be posting only a slight budget deficit this year. It also has over $3 trillion (and counting) worth of foreign-exchange reserves and, in a world in which the developed nations are engaged in beggar-thy-neighbor currency devaluations, a steadily strengthening renminbi.”

I don’t understand the meaning of “and counting” in the line, “It also has over $3 trillion (and counting) worth of foreign-exchange reserves.” What does it mean? Does “and counting” add special significance or precision to the statement and $3 trillion figure?


"... and counting ..." became a popular phrase due to televised footage of NASA rocket launches, which were popular viewing from the outset of the American space programme in the 1960s, and much of the Space Shuttle era in the 1980s, until launches became so commonplace that many people ceased to find them exciting.

Most people are still familiar with the ten seconds leading up to lift-off, which is counted down second by second "ten ... nine ... eight ...". But the countdown begins long in advance of that, starting at "T minus 43 hours and counting".

"... and counting" means that the countdown clock is still ticking. The clock is paused at some key stages in the run-up to lift off. At those times, the announcer instead says "T minus 20 minutes and holding", whereupon the clock is stopped while a variable-length procedure is conducted. Then when the clock is restarted, we hear "T minus 20 minutes and counting".

Those of us of a certain age, as we read "over $3 trillion (and counting)", will hear "and counting" in the crackly telephone-like tone and American accent of the NASA countdown engineer.

Use of the phrase by people from that era, is likely to be deliberately referencing NASA countdowns. However it is a common enough phrase that it is now used by people who perhaps have no knowledge of that background.


And counting simply means that the number is increasing all the time. $3 trillion and counting means that the value of their foreign exchange reserves is currently around $3 trillion, and will increase as time passes.

  • Note: for the link, one must scroll down a little to find the appropriate definition. – user11550 Feb 3 '12 at 6:44
  • I guessed so from the context of the sentence. But as far as I consulted with English Japanese dictionaries (Kenkyusha's Readers Plus and Sanseido's Wisdom E/J Dictionary) at hand, there was no mention on the usage of “growing / increasing” in their definitions. They simply register definition of “count” as a verb meaning (1) calculate, (2) consider, (3) be important, (4) rely on, (5) take a rhythm. So I wasn’t sure if I can interpret ‘and counting’ here as ‘still growing.’ Is the word 'counting' used in the meaning of 'increasing' very often in this way in English? – Yoichi Oishi Feb 3 '12 at 7:16
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    @YoichiOishi The exact phrase "and counting" is used in this way; it implies that there was a known amount at the time of writing but it was increasing, so one must continue to count. There is a television show called 17 Kids and Counting, for example, about a family that had 17 children, but whose parents were continuing to conceive more, with no apparent limit in the forseeable future. – choster Feb 3 '12 at 7:29

As others have said "and counting" means continuing to increase.

The idea is this: we have counted $3 trillion so far, but we haven't finished counting yet, we expect more to come.

Which is to say the implication is not strictly that it is increasing, though it does mean that, but rather that the given number is not a finalized.


Here "and counting" means, the reserve is increasing and bound to increase in the near future.

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