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María Moliner (30 March 1900 – 22 January 1981) was a Spanish librarian and lexicographer. She is perhaps best known for her Diccionario de uso del español, first published in 1966–1967, when she completed the work started in 1952.
María Juana Moliner Ruiz was the eldest daughter of Enrique Moliner, a doctor and son of a doctor, and Matilde Ruiz. At the age of two, her family moved from Zaragoza to Almazán in the border province of Soria. While a teenager her father left for Argentina and never came back, while Moliner, according to her son Fernando, lived with her mother, sister Matilde and brother Enrique in severe poverty. She pursued her Bachillerato at the Instituto General y Técnico Cardenal Cisneros, and obtained a degree in History in 1921 from the University of Zaragoza.
She married Fernando Ramón Ferrando, a physics graduate, in 1925 and had four children. Years later the couple moved to Valencia.
In 1946, Moliner was put in charge of the library at the Superior Technical School of Industrial Engineers in Madrid, until her retirement in 1970. In the early 1950s, she started work on her Diccionario de uso del español, getting up at about five in the morning, working a little, watering her flowers, going to work, having a small siesta before returning to her dictionary work. Her method was to look up words, read newspapers and note words she had heard in the street.
Diccionario de uso del español
The Diccionario de uso del español is much more detailed than the Real Academia Española's dictionary, containing detailed definitions, synonyms, expressions and families of words. Unlike other dictionaries, Ll and Ch, often considered letters in their own right but now less frequently so, are grouped under L and C respectively, as in many recent dictionaries (and as in English). The book was immediately successful and is well regarded today, summed up in Miguel Delibes' quip that "[i]t is a work that justifies a life" ("Es una obra que justifica una vida").
A María Moliner reading campaign is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Spain. Since 1998, the campaign for the promotion of reading in Spanish towns of less than 50,000 inhabitants has been in the format of a competition aimed at towns meeting these criteria, giving prizes to the best projects or activities for promoting reading among children and young people. It is held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and the collaboration of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces and, since 1992, with the collaboration of the Coca-Cola España Foundation. 350 libraries are awarded a prize of books made up of 200 children's and young adults' books. Since 2002 the three best projects receive cash prizes as well. The competition is held annually and all settlements with up to 50,000 inhabitants that have a staffed local library may submit their projects.
- 'María Moliner reading campaign', Ministerio de Cultura, http://en.www.mcu.es/libro/MC/PFL/CampAnimacion/CampAnimacion.html
- Official website (Spanish)