In software engineering, a loop counter is the term often used to refer to the variable that controls the iterations of a loop (a computer programming language construct). It is so named because most uses of this construct result in the variable taking on a range of integer values in some orderly sequence (e.g., starting at 0 and end at 10 in increments of 1)
Loop counters change with each iteration of a loop, providing a unique value for each individual iteration. The loop counter is used to decide when the loop should terminate and for program flow to continue to the next instruction after the loop.
A common identifier naming convention is for the loop counter to use the variable names i, j, and k (and so on if needed), where i would be the most outer loop, j the next inner loop, etc. The reverse order is also used by some programmers. This style is generally agreed to have originated from the early programming of FORTRAN, where these variable names beginning with these letters were implicitly declared as having an integer type, and so were obvious choices for loop counters that were only temporarily required. The practice also dates back further to mathematical notation where indices for sums and multiplications are often i, j, etc.
for(i = 0; i < 100; i++) for(j = i; j < 100; j++) some_function(i, j);