Labor Day means back to school, and that means lookups of the word "culture" spike at Merriam-Webster.com.
Lookups on Merriam-Webster.com started spiking around September 10, an annual phenomenon we've reported on for a few years running.
Students arriving at college were greeted, as usual, with plenty of culture.
For example, a few course titles in one catalogue: "Nationalism, Colonialism, and Culture," "American Material Culture," and "Visual Culture in Early Modern Spain."
But what does it mean?
Merriam-Webster's definition of culture includes a couple of senses relevant to the academic use:
: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic
Beyond that, exploring the range of this word is partly what student life is about.
Culture comes from Latin: "to cultivate land."
UPDATE: Beyond back-to-school, the word "culture" has seen an ongoing increase in lookups such that it became our Word of the Year for 2014.