floun·​der | \ ˈflau̇n-dər How to pronounce flounder (audio) \
plural flounder or flounders

Definition of flounder

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: flatfish especially : any of various marine fishes (families Pleuronectidae, Paralichthyidae, and Bothidae) that include important food fishes


floundered; floundering\ ˈflau̇n-​d(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce flounder (audio) \

Definition of flounder (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to struggle to move or obtain footing : thrash about wildly The poor horse was floundering in the mud.
2 : to proceed or act clumsily or ineffectually the normally surefooted governor floundered a moment like a prize pupil caught unpreparedTime

Synonyms for flounder

Synonyms: Verb

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Flounder is a relatively common verb that current evidence dates to the late 16th century, when it was likely born by means of an alteration of an older verb, founder. The two have been confused ever since. Today, founder is most often used as a synonym of fail, or, in the case of a waterborne vessel, as a word meaning "to fill with water and sink." Formerly, it was also frequently applied when a horse stumbled badly and was unable to keep walking. It's likely this sense of founder led to the original and now-obsolete meaning of flounder: "to stumble." In modern use, flounder typically means "to struggle" or "to act clumsily"; the word lacks the finality of founder, which usually denotes complete collapse or failure, as that of a sunken ship.

Examples of flounder in a Sentence

Verb The horses were floundering through the deep snow. He was floundering around in the pool like an amateur. After watching me flounder for a few minutes, my instructor took over.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Fishermen can catch blue crab, spotted and sand seatrout, sea catfish, red drum, and southern flounder in the island's waters. Cailey Rizzo, Travel + Leisure, 4 Apr. 2022 Their meat is as white and flaky as any cod or flounder, perhaps even better. Jason Nark, Washington Post, 17 May 2022 Matanzas on the Bay has everything from Gulf shrimp to Ahi tuna, plus lobster tail, snapper, grouper and flounder. Judy Koutsky, Forbes, 9 Apr. 2022 The rules apply to valuable species that are harvested in the Northeast such as cod, haddock and flounder. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 15 Apr. 2022 Regulators have tried to save the fishery with management measures such as very low fishing quotas, and many fishermen targeting other East Coast groundfish species such as haddock and flounder now avoid cod altogether. Patrick Whittle, courant.com, 31 Mar. 2022 Regulators have tried to save the fishery with management measures such as very low fishing quotas, and many fishermen targeting other East Coast groundfish species such as haddock and flounder now avoid cod altogether. Patrick Whittle, Anchorage Daily News, 31 Mar. 2022 Entree choices are cod, flounder, baked shrimp or pierogi. Carol Kovach, cleveland, 22 Mar. 2022 Their bodies wear down with age and injury; shows flounder, and sometimes close. Meg Bernhard, The New Yorker, 5 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Though many of those would flounder (remember The Love Guru? Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone, 5 July 2022 To land a job as a program manager, a candidate would have to flounder and guess how many golf balls fit in a bus or create an evacuation plan for the entire city of San Francisco. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 28 Apr. 2022 In any career, there are top performers, folks who do well, those who get by and others who flounder and fail. Don Daszkowski, Forbes, 21 Dec. 2021 Hopefully the push to give ESG the CRT treatment will flounder and further divide capital against itself. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 23 May 2022 Otherwise, the Pacers will continue to flounder near the bottom of the NBA defensively. Tony East, Forbes, 17 May 2022 If enough leaders couldn’t make the leap to a global mindset, their organizations would flounder and fail. Ginny Whitelaw, Forbes, 1 May 2022 As hopeful home buyers flounder in a frustrating market, many are opting to hang on to rental properties in pricey areas and make a second home their first home purchase. New York Times, 28 Apr. 2022 Such skis excel in very specific conditions but tend to flounder in routine all-mountain conditions. Heather Schultz, Outside Online, 4 Mar. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'flounder.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of flounder


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for flounder


Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Norwegian flundra flounder


probably alteration of founder

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The first known use of flounder was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

11 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Flounder.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flounder. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for flounder


floun·​der | \ ˈflau̇n-dər How to pronounce flounder (audio) \

Kids Definition of flounder

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a flatfish used for food


floundered; floundering

Kids Definition of flounder (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to struggle to move or get footing The horses were floundering in the mud.
2 : to behave or do something in a clumsy way I floundered through the speech.

More from Merriam-Webster on flounder

Nglish: Translation of flounder for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of flounder for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about flounder


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