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corn 1 (kôrn)
a. Any of numerous cultivated forms of a widely grown, usually tall annual cereal grass (Zea mays) bearing grains or kernels on large ears.
b. The grains or kernels of this plant, used as food for humans and livestock or for the extraction of an edible oil or starch. Also called Indian corn, maize.
2. An ear of this plant.
3. Chiefly British Any of various cereal plants or grains, especially the principal crop cultivated in a particular region, such as wheat in England or oats in Scotland.
a. A single grain of a cereal plant.
b. A seed or fruit of various other plants, such as a peppercorn.
5. Corn snow.
6. Informal Corn whiskey.
7. Slang Something considered trite, dated, melodramatic, or unduly sentimental.
v. corned, corn·ing, corns
1. To cause to form hard particles; granulate.
a. To season and preserve with granulated salt.
b. To preserve (beef, for example) in brine.
3. To feed (animals) with corn or grain.
To form hard particles; become grainy: "After the snow melts all day, it corns up at night for fine conditions" (Hatfield MA Valley Advocate).

[Middle English, grain, from Old English; see gə-no- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Word History: Originally, the English word corn meant any rounded grain or seed whatsoever. In particular, it was used to refer to the kind of grain most often grown in a certain region. Thus in England, a cornfield is usually a field of wheat. The pretty blue cornflower is a Eurasian weed that originally plagued fields of wheat, not maize. In Scotland, on the other hand, corn can mean "oats," the grain that thrives best in Scotland's cool and damp climate. To modern North Americans, however, corn means maizethat is, the plant Zea mays and its seeds. When they first encountered Zea mays in the 16th century, the English borrowed the Spanish term for the grain, maíz, which is in turn a borrowing of Arawakan mahiz or mahís. Later, in the 17th century, another term for maize appears, Indian cornthe word Indian here meaning "native to the Americas." The American word corn in the specific meaning "maize" is simply a shortening of Indian corn.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
corn 2 (kôrn)
A horny thickening of the skin, usually on or near a toe, resulting from pressure or friction. Also called clavus.

[Middle English corne, from Old French, horn, from Latin cornū; see ker-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.