corn

Definitions

General English

Food

  • A general term once used of all grains such as wheat, oats, barley, rye, maize, etc. but now used only of wheat in Europe and of maize in the USA

Medical

  • noun a hard painful lump of skin usually on a foot, where something such as a tight shoe has rubbed or pressed on the skin.

Slang

  • noun money. A variant form of the Caribbean form carn which was said to have been the favourite word of the black British boxer Frank Bruno in 1982.

Travel

  • noun maize, a cereal which is used to make flour and of which the seeds are also eaten

Origin & History of “corn”

The underlying sense of corn is of grinding down into small particles. The word comes ultimately from the Indo-European base *ger-, which meant ‘wear away’. From it was derived *grnóm ‘worn-down particle’, which in Latin produced grānum (source of English grain) and in prehistoric Germanic produced *kurnam, which developed into Old English corn. Already in Germanic times the word had developed in meaning from simply ‘particle’ to ‘small seed’ and specifically ‘cereal grain’, but English corn was not of course applied to ‘maize’ before that plant came to Europe from America in the 16th century. The original sense ‘particle’ survives in corned beef, where corned refers to the grains of salt with which the meat is preserved. The meaning ‘hackneyed or sentimental matter’ is a 20th-century development, based on the supposedly unsophisticated life of country areas. Kernel comes from an Old English diminutive form of corn.

Corn ‘hardening of the skin’ (15th c.) is a completely different word, coming via Anglo-Norman corn from Latin cornū ‘horn’.
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