Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
Trend Watch


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.

Seen and Heard