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1. Literally, the seed of corn that is kept aside from a harvest in order to plant for the following year's production. The hens got loose and ate up all of our seed corn. I don't know what we'll do for next year's harvest!
2. By extension, that which drives or supports future use, growth, or development, as opposed to that which is used immediately or in the present. Sometimes hyphenated when used as a modifier before a noun. Research, even that which doesn't lead to anything profitable, is the seed corn of this industry. The investment firm provides seed-corn financing to small business ventures.
3. A very small, painful callous that typically appears on the weight-bearing part of one's foot. I can't believe I got a seed corn right before the big marathon! I don't know how I'll be able to run it.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
If someone talks about seed corn, they mean resources or people that will produce benefits in the future rather than immediately. Investment in the industry, the seed corn of future output, has fallen by 75 percent. Note: If people eat their seed corn, they use up their valuable resources, and this will prevent them from being able to do things in the future. A society that's unwilling to invest in its future is a society that's living off capital. It's eating its seed corn. Note: A farmer's seed corn is the grain that is used for planting rather than being sold or eaten.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012