1 : to struggle to move or obtain footing : thrash about wildly
2 : to proceed or act clumsily or ineffectually
Did You Know?
Despite the fact that flounder is a relatively common English verb, its origins in the language remain obscure. It is thought that it may be an alteration of an older verb, founder. To founder is to become disabled, to give way or collapse, or to come to grief or to fail. In the case of a waterborne vessel, to founder is to sink. The oldest of these senses of founder, "to become disabled," was also used, particularly in reference to a horse and its rider, for the act of stumbling violently or collapsing. It may have been this sense of founder that later appeared in altered form as flounder in the sense of "to stumble."
"The four Royal Air Force pilots ditched their broken bomber and dropped into the North Sea, near Britain. It was February 23, 1942…. Floundering in the frigid water, the pilots released their last hope: a tiny, bedraggled carrier pigeon named Winkie." — Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post, 9 June 2016
"But She-Ra's sales floundered from the start. Roger Sweet, a Mattel toy creator and the author of Mastering the Universe, estimated her total sales at $60 million, an anemic number compared with He-Man ($2 billion) or Barbie ($350 million)." — Maria Teresa Hart, The Atlantic, 16 June 2016
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
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