verb (used without object)
  1. (of a ship, boat, etc.) to fill with water and sink.
  2. to fall or sink down, as buildings, ground, etc.: Built on a former lake bed, the building has foundered nearly ten feet.
  3. to become wrecked; fail utterly: The project foundered because public support was lacking.
  4. to stumble, break down, or go lame, as a horse: His mount foundered on the rocky path.
  5. to become ill from overeating.
  6. Veterinary Pathology. (of a horse) to suffer from laminitis.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to fill with water and sink: Rough seas had foundered the ship in mid-ocean.
  2. Veterinary Pathology. to cause (a horse) to break down, go lame, or suffer from laminitis.
  1. Veterinary Pathology. laminitis.

Origin of founder

1300–50; Middle English foundren < Middle French fondrer to plunge to the bottom, submerge < Vulgar Latin *fundorāre, derivative of *fundor-, taken as stem of Latin fundus bottom
Related formsun·foun·dered, adjectiveun·foun·der·ing, adjective

Synonyms for founder Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for foundering

Contemporary Examples of foundering

Historical Examples of foundering

  • They ought to have left before, when we had that narrow squeak from foundering.


    Joseph Conrad

  • Written three days before the foundering of the Monitor off Hatteras, Dec. 31st 1862.


    Henry Morford

  • And isn't Hodgson foundering my mare at this moment in chase of him?

    The Adventures of Harry Revel

    Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

  • Had it fallen out, no human power could have prevented the ship from foundering.

    Captain Cook

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • If ye hang to the gunwale, is it my fault an ye be drowned in my foundering if I founder?'

    Privy Seal

    Ford Madox Ford

British Dictionary definitions for foundering


  1. a person who establishes an institution, company, society, etc

Word Origin for founder

C14: see found ²


verb (intr)
  1. (of a ship) to sink
  2. to break down or failthe project foundered
  3. to sink into or become stuck in soft ground
  4. to fall in or give way; collapse
  5. (of a horse) to stumble or go lame
  6. archaic (of animals, esp livestock) to become ill from overeating
  1. vet science another name for laminitis

Word Origin for founder

C13: from Old French fondrer to submerge, from Latin fundus bottom; see found ²


Founder is sometimes wrongly used where flounder is meant: this unexpected turn of events left him floundering (not foundering)


    1. a person who makes metal castings
    2. (in combination)an iron founder

Word Origin for founder

C15: see found ³
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

Word Origin and History for foundering



early 14c., from Old French fondrer "collapse; submerge, sink, fall to the bottom," from fond "bottom," from Latin fundus "bottom, foundation" (see fund (n.)). Related: Foundered; foundering.



"one who establishes, one who sets up or institutes something," mid-14c., from Anglo-French fundur, Old French fondeor, from Latin fundator, agent noun from fundare (see found (v.1)).



"one who casts metal," c.1400, agent noun from found (v.2).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

foundering in Medicine


  1. To stumble, especially to stumble and go lame. Used of horses.
  2. To become ill from overeating. Used of livestock.
  3. To be afflicted with laminitis. Used of horses.
  1. laminitis
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.