Corn starch, cornstarch, cornflour or maize starch is the starch
Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store...

 of the corn (maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

) grain obtained from the endosperm
Endosperm is the tissue produced inside the seeds of most flowering plants around the time of fertilization. It surrounds the embryo and provides nutrition in the form of starch, though it can also contain oils and protein. This makes endosperm an important source of nutrition in human diet...

 of the corn kernel
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

Thomas Kingsford is credited to have been the inventor of corn starch in the 1840s, while he was working as the superintendent of a wheat starch factory in Jersey City, New Jersey
Jersey City, New Jersey
Jersey City is the seat of Hudson County, New Jersey, United States.Part of the New York metropolitan area, Jersey City lies between the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay across from Lower Manhattan and the Hackensack River and Newark Bay...

. Until 1850, corn starch was used primarily for starching laundry and industrial uses.
It is used as a thickening agent
Thickening agent
Thickening agents, or thickeners, is the term applied to substances which increase the viscosity of a solution or liquid/solid mixture without substantially modifying its other properties; although most frequently applied to foods where the target property is taste, the term also is applicable to...

 in soups and liquid-based foods, such as sauces, gravies and custard.