Corn - Cornus

Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Corn - Cornus', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Corn - Cornus", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Corn - Cornus", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

In this section



Any GRAIN such as BARLEY, OATS, RYE, WHEAT, but probably not RICE, nor the so-called INDIAN CORN that only became commercially available towards the end of this period in Britain. Sometimes PULSEs like BEANS and PEAS may also have been included. This generic meaning can clearly be seen in such records as 'In Corne and Catall' [Inventories (1543)], in which the grain was distinguished from the livestock. However, the term was often applied locally to the grain most commonly grown in that district so that in much of England it indicated WHEAT. This gives rise to records like 'Corn and Lent Graine now Growing' [Inventories (1723)] in which 'Lent Graine or LENT CORN would have been understood to mean BARLEY and/or perhaps OATS. Other records that have similar meanings are 'Mallt & corne in ye house' [Inventories (1634)], and 'Corne, Malt, and Oates' [Inventories (1723)].

Corn was given a variety of descriptors; some described its characteristics like HARD CORN and SOFT CORN, or its function like BATCH CORN, BREAD CORN, MALT CORN and TITHE CORN, while others indicated when it was sown like LENT CORN and WINTER CORN. Yet others indicate a mixture of grains like BLEND CORN and MUNCORN, while one, INDIAN CORN, shows its foreign origin.

Various pieces of equipment associated with carrying, managing or storing corn have been noted including corn BIN [Inventories (1750); Inventories (1750)], corn CART [Inventories (1634)], corn CHEST [Inventories (1637)], and corn ROPE [Inventories (1610)]. Two devices to measure corn have also been noted; a 'pecke to measure corne' [Inventories (1645)], and 'beames to weighe Corne [Inventories (1607)]. One farmer with CORN SHOVELs, CORN SCREEN, corn sieve, corn shoot, CORN TUB and corn BARROW shows the variety of equipment that was made for dealing with corn [Inventories (1789)].

Corn was occasionally used as a shortening of PEPPER CORN as in 'twenty corns of Pepper' [Recipes (Queens)], and as a variant of CORNED.

OED earliest date of use: 871-9

Found described as of all sorts, on the ground, growing, sown, in the STRAW, threshed Found describing BIN, CART, CHEST, HOOK, MEASURE, RAKE, ROPE, SIEVE, TROUGH Found in units of BUSHEL. mow, QUARTER, stook Found rated by the BUSHEL, QUARTER

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Recipes.

Corn basket

[corne baskett]

Possibly a BASKET in which to carry or store CORN, but more probably a form of CORN FAN.

Not found in the OED under Corn

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Corn fan

[fans for corn; fans corn]

One type of corn fan was a BASKET of a special form, while earlier another sort was a specialised wooden SHOVEL. They were used for separating the CORN from the CHAFF by throwing it up in the air. These appear to have been simple IMPLEMENTs, and are unlikely to have been similar to those in the only reference to corn fans in the Dictionary Archive, relating to the importation of 30 in [Houghton]. This may have been what was called by Worlidge a 'winnowing machine', which 'by its motion artificially causeth Wind' [OED, Fan] and which in the Book of Rates for 1657 appeared as 'Fans for Corn' [Rates (1657)].

OED earliest date of use: 1675

Found rated by the PIECE

Sources: Houghton, Rates.

Corn knife

[corn knife]

A SURGEONS INSTRUMENT in the form of a KNIFE and used for cutting out corns on a human foot. Corns seem to have been quite problem, suggesting many BOOTS and SHOES were poorly fitted, and hence also CORN PLASTER and CORN SALVE.

Not found in the OED online in this sense

Sources: Tradecards.

Corn mill

[mill to mill corne]

A MILL for grinding CORN, although mills for this purpose were usually large fixed structures, those in the Dictionary Archive were probably intended for grinding corn on a small scale; hence the patent for 'Making hand corn-mills for grinding wheat in private families' [Patents (1768)], and the advertisement for corn mills listed under KITCHEN - FURNITURE [Tradecards (1791)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early), Patents, Tradecards.

Corn plaster

[corn plaister]

A PLASTER designed to treat or to relieve the discomfort of corns. Like CORN SALVE, corn plasters seem to have attracted the attention of the manufacturers of QUACK MEDICINE, who were prepared to put their names to their products; hence the retailer who had 'Kennedy's Corn Plaister' and 'German Do' [ditto] [Tradecards (1790s)].

OED earliest date of use: 1879

Found branded as GERMAN, Kennedy's

See also CORN KNIFE.
Sources: Tradecards.

Corn powder

[corn-powder; cornespouder; cornepowther; cornepowder; corne powder; corne pouther; corne pouder; corne gunpowder; corn powd'; corn poulder; corn pouder; corn pother; corn po]

GUNPOWDER that has been 'corned' or granulated, in contrast to SERPENTINE POWDER, which was more finely powdered. A quotation in the OED under cannon, dated 1627, suggests that corning had the effect of increasing the strength of the gunpowder.

OED earliest date of use: 1560

Found in units of BARREL, C, LB, POUND, QUARTER Found rated by the C of 112 LB, HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 LB

See also CORNED.
Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.

Corn sack

[corne sack; corn sacking]

A robust SACK suitable for storing CORN. Corn SACKING advertised by the PIECE has also been noted suitable for making such sacks.

Not found in the OED under Corn

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers.

Corn salad

[corn sallad]

A small succulent plant, Valerianella olitoria, also known as lambs lettuce, found wild in corn fields and cultivated for salads. John Evelyn wrote that it was 'loosening and refreshing ... seasonably eaten with other salleting, the whole winter long, and early spring: the French call the salad de preter, for their being generally eaten in Lent' [Evelyn (1699, new ed. 1996)]. Corn salad was listed among 'Seeds for the Kitchen Garden' by one retailer [Tradecards (n.d.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1597

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Evelyn (1699, new ed. 1996).

Corn salve

A SALVE that was claimed to cure corns. One nineteenth-century quotation in the OED indicates that it was a popular item of sale by the more disreputable itinerant salesmen. Certainly in the eighteenth century, it was a product to which the manufacturers of QUACK MEDICINE were prepared to put their name; hence 'Lord's well known infallible Corn Salve' [Newspapers (1770)], and 'Bott's Corn Salve, an effectual Remedy for all Sorts of Corns' [Newspapers (1790)]. This one was advertised as giving no pain, which suggests that some salves were caustic and therefore irritated the skin.

OED earliest date of use: 1851

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.

Corn screen

[corne skreene; corne screen; corn skreen]

The corn SCREEN was a type of RIDDLE used to separate grain from dross. 'Screen' was often used elliptically to describe this IMPLEMENT, but sometimes the use was made explicit as in 'a skreene to make cleane wheat' [Inventories (1597)]. The term seems to have been virtually synonymous with MALT SCREEN, and is often found in close proximity to MALT, for example [Inventories (1584)] and [Inventories (1783)].

Not found in the OED

See also SCREEL.
Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (late).

Corn shovel

[corn shovell]

Probably a SHOVEL made of WOOD for managing CORN, but possibly a form of CORN FAN.

OED earliest date of use: 1769

Sources: Inventories (late).

Corn tub

Presumably a TUB for storing CORN

Not found in the OED online

Found described as OLD

Sources: Inventories (late).


[corni; corne; corn]

The term indicates that a given substance was ground or granulated rather than in the form of a POWDER. It seems most often to have been applied to SALT. In the Dictionary Archive it is found abbreviated to 'Corn' as in 'Corn emery' [Newspapers (1780)], and 'Corne sugar' [Inventories (1708)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1577

Found describing EMERY, SUGAR

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers.

Corned beef

BEEF preserved or cured with SALT, particularly salt in grains rather than BRINE [Lloyd (1895)]. In his 'Dictionary of Trade (1858), Simmonds defined corned meat somewhat differently as 'flesh slightly salted, intended for early use, and not for keeping for any time' [OED]. Corned beef has been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive, when it was promoted by one of the major eighteenth-century London retailers selling exotic foods and food for export [Tradecards (1800)]. It sounds as if this would have fitted the first definition rather than the second.

OED earliest date of use: 1621-51 under Corned

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Lloyd (1895).


A variety of chalcedony, a semi-transparent quartz of a deep dull red, flesh or reddish white colour, much used for making SEALs etc.

OED earliest date of use: c1400

Found described as ENGRAVED, FINE, set in GOLD, set in SILVER Found used to make BOX, RING, SEAL, SPONGE BOX

Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers, Tradecards.

Corner chisel

[corning chissell; corning bosting chissell]

A CHISEL with two rectangular edges for cutting the corner of a mortice.

Defined by the OED under Corner, but without a supporting quotation

Sources: Inventories (late).

Corner cupboard

[corner-cupboard; corner cuboard; corner cubert; corner cubbord; corner cubboard; corner cubboad; corner cubbert; corner cubbard; corner coubert; corner cobert; corner cobard; corner chubboard; carner cupboard]

A contemporary term for a common piece of FURNITURE. It has been in use since the seventeenth century, though in the Dictionary Archive it has been noted only after 1700. The term was applied to a free-standing or hanging CUPBOARD, so made as to fit into the corner of a room. Such cupboards probably developed from shelves that were later fitted with doors [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)]. Occasionally the cupboard is listed with its contents as in 'A Corner Cupboard with China & Glasses' [Inventories (1746)]. Such entries suggest that these cupboards may have been used for display. In such cases, they may well have had glass doors.

OED earliest date of use: 1711 under Corner

Found described as JAPANNED, OLD, SMALL Found made of MAHOGANY, OAK

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (late), Newspapers.
References: Gloag (1952, revised 1991).

Corner tile

A TILE used for capping the corner of a hip roof, it is sometimes called a 'Hip Tile'. Corner tiles were referred to in the introduction to of an act of 1477, which regulated size of TILE, but not in the following list in which sizes were laid down. It was possibly a misprint for COVER TILES, a term in the list but not in the introduction [Acts (1477)].

OED earliest date of use: 1477

Sources: Acts.


[cornitt; cornett; cornatt; cornat]

In APPAREL, the cornet was originally the long point of the hood. At the end of the fifteenth century it developed into a women's CAP, covering the skull and temples with the point standing up for greater comfort. The term remained in use in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for the linen HEAD DRESS worn by ordinary women. As the point of the hood was sometimes rolled round the head in the Middle Ages, the name was also used for the ornaments, hoops and bands round the crown of the HAT, and then in the form 'Cornet hat' for a type of hat worn by WOMEN with a gathered crown and narrow brim. In the Dictionary Archive they have been noted only in the latter half of the seventeenth century, and with one exception appear to have been a head dress for WOMEN.

OED earliest date of use: 1547

Found described as for BOYS, FLOWERED, LACED, PLAIN, STRIPED

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


[cornishe; cornish]

It is often found as 'Cornish' as in 'The bedsted & cornish' [Inventories (1696)].

An ornamental projection on which a CURTAIN may be hung, usually on a four poster BED, but occasionally over a window as in '4 Window Curtains & Cornish' [Inventories (1730)]. The term was also applied to a decorative moulding, usually crafted out of plaster, but found also in contexts that suggest WOOD; for example '6 setts of Cutt Cornices' [Inventories (1780)]. Cornices could also appear on buildings, but these hardly find mention in the Dictionary Archive. An exception is an act of 1774 regulating external decorations, in which the cornices and dressings to any Shop Window were excepted [Acts (1774)].

OED earliest date of use: 1563 under Cornice, relating to building; OED has no quotation to support the meaning of the upper part of a four-poster bed

Found described as a BEDSTEAD

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents.

Cornice hook

[corner hooke]

A HOOK for hanging a PICTURE from a picture CORNICE. The term does not appear as such in the Dictionary Archive but it seems likely that the '4 pair of best Corner Hookes at 2s 3d p pair' followed by '5 pair of Do at 1s 6d p pair' [Inventories (1733)], are cornice hooks given their valuation, and the fact they were sold in pairs.

OED definition under Cornice, but no supporting quotation

Found described as BEST
Found in units of PAIR

Sources: Inventories (late).

Cornice plane

[cornish plaine]

An ogee PLANE for shaping a CORNICE or moulding.

Defined by the OED, but no supporting quotation

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Cornu cervi

[cornu-cervi; corn cerv]

A Latin term that translates literally as the HORN of a DEER, more commonly known as HARTSHORN. The Latin indicates that it was used in APOTHECARY, as was a similar product, CORNU UNICORNIUM. Much was imported, and it was rated already burnt and ground. This process reduced the horn to a whitish colour like CHALK so that it was listed as 'Cornu-Cervi Calcinatum' [Rates (1784)]. One tradesman, a 'Levigator' or grinder had 'Corn. Cerv. Calc.' in stock, suggesting some at any rate was prepared in this country [Tradecards (n.d.)]. Cornu cervi was also used as a descriptor, for instance in 'Sal Volatile Cornu Cervi' and 'Spiritus Cornu Cervi' [Rates (1784)] where it referred to SAL VOLATILE and SPIRIT respectively made from this horn rather than any other product.

Not found in the OED as such, though English versions of the term are

Found described by 'calcinatum'
Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Rates, Tradecards.

Cornu unicornium

The term denotes literally the HORN of a unicorn. The horn traded under this name was regarded as, or alleged to be, coming from the legendary beast and therefore to have powerful curative properties. In reality it was probably that of the rhinoceros or the narwhal, or of other horned animals. The horn was powdered and used medicinally, especially as an antidote against poison, and hence the use of the Latin form.

Not found in the OED as such, but there are references to the horn of the unicorn

Found rated by the OUNCE

Sources: Rates.



A name given to a family of TREEs or shrubs, applied particularly to cornel and dogwood. According to John Houghton it was a HARD WOOD, comparable with BOX and EBONY [Houghton], although there could be problems with trying to glue it [Houghton]. This may explain why it was not commonly used as a WOOD.

OED earliest date of use: 1846

Sources: Houghton.