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[floun-der] /ˈflaʊn dər/
verb (used without object)
to struggle with stumbling or plunging movements (usually followed by about, along, on, through, etc.):
He saw the child floundering about in the water.
to struggle clumsily or helplessly:
He floundered helplessly on the first day of his new job.
Origin of flounder1
1570-80; perhaps blend of flounce1 and founder2
Related forms
flounderingly, adverb
unfloundering, adjective
2. falter, waver, muddle.


[floun-der] /ˈflaʊn dər/
noun, plural (especially collectively) flounder (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) flounders.
a European, marine flatfish, Platichthys flesus, used for food.
any of numerous similar or closely related non-European flatfishes.
any flatfish other than soles.
1400-50; late Middle English < Anglo-French floundre < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian flundra Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for flounder
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I have got the hook in her gills and I'll land her in my own fashion, and she may struggle and flounder as she will.

  • What we've done so far, you might best describe as flounder.

    Project Mastodon Clifford Donald Simak
  • Thus did I flounder about in a sea of uncertainty, but still of exciting interest.

    The Little Savage Captain Frederick Marryat
  • If there was a sump-hole in sight, that horse was sure to flounder into it.

    The Trail of '98 Robert W. Service
  • But even as they looked, the pair struck the water and began to flounder through.

  • I guess he should have loved rather to flounder back through the snow.

    Joyce Morrell's Harvest Emily Sarah Holt
  • She was most aptly named; indeed, I think the flounder would have been a still more appropriate designation.

British Dictionary definitions for flounder


verb (intransitive)
to struggle; to move with difficulty, as in mud
to behave awkwardly; make mistakes
the act of floundering
Usage note
Flounder is sometimes wrongly used where founder is meant: the project foundered (not floundered) because of a lack of funds
Word Origin
C16: probably a blend of founder² + blunder; perhaps influenced by flounder²


noun (pl) -der, -ders
Also called fluke. a European flatfish, Platichthys flesus having a greyish-brown body covered with prickly scales: family Pleuronectidae: an important food fish
(US & Canadian) any flatfish of the families Bothidae (turbot, etc) and Pleuronectidae (plaice, halibut, sand dab, etc)
Word Origin
C14: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse flythra, Norwegian flundra
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for flounder

1590s, perhaps an alteration of founder (q.v.), influenced by Dutch flodderen "to flop about," or native verbs in fl- expressing clumsy motion. Figurative use is from 1680s. Related: Floundered; floundering. As a noun derived from this sense, from 1867.


flatfish, c.1300, from Anglo-French floundre, from Old North French flondre, from Old Norse flydhra; related to Middle Low German vlundere, Danish flynder; ultimately cognate with Greek platys "flat, wide, broad" (see plaice (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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