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 Little Lagoon, once a fishing mecca for mullet and flounder, has long been transformed into a brackish waterway infiltrated with algae blooms. al, 12 Aug. 2022 Joe Fabiano has had a boat for most of his life, often taking it out to Boston Harbor to cast a line and catch flounder and stripers. Shannon Larson, BostonGlobe.com, 2 Aug. 2022 Airline prides itself on offering the freshest Gulf seafood, including red fish, grouper, flounder and snow crab. Megha Mcswain, Chron, 13 June 2022 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Nebraska: The defense continues to flounder, having given up more than 500 yards to a third straight Bowl Subdivision opponent. Eric Olson, ajc, 17 Sep. 2022 Even when police have evidence, families say, some cases still flounder. Mark Guarino, Washington Post, 15 June 2022 New retirees who neglect to plan can flounder without the structure of their careers, unsure how to fill their days, some retirees and advisers say. Veronica Dagher, WSJ, 31 Aug. 2022 Having employees flounder around trying to figure out a tech issue that could be answered simply creates frustration and costs time and lost productivity. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 25 July 2022 Examples include mackerel over tuna or fluke/flounder over halibut. Amy Fischer Ms, Rd, Cdn, Good Housekeeping, 22 July 2022 While Putin seemed to flounder in the first three months of the conflict — angry, on the defensive and almost disappearing from view — Patrushev stepped forward to justify the invasion and promote Russia’s war aims. Catherine Belton, Washington Post, 13 July 2022 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 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

21 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Flounder.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flounder. Accessed 2 Oct. 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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