Flounder is a verb that refers to struggling or moving clumsily, especially with difficulty maintaining balance. It can also mean to struggle mentally or verbally, to fail to make progress, or to become confused or stuck in a difficult situation.


US English

UK English

Part of Speech

Flounder can be both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it is an action word describing the act of struggling or moving clumsily. As a noun, it refers to a type of flatfish.


Struggle, stumble, falter, fumble, struggle, flail, grope, waver, languish, founder, wallow, bumble, muddle, sputter.


Succeed, excel, thrive, prosper, prevail, succeed, flourish, triumph, adeptness, poise, grace, expertise, mastery.

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun flounder
Verb flounders, floundered, floundering, flounder
Adjective None
Adverb None

Example Sentences

  • The young swimmer began to flounder in the deep end of the pool, struggling to keep her head above water.

  • Despite years of experience, the speaker started to flounder during the Q&A session, stumbling over her words and losing her train of thought.

  • The company’s financial department continued to flounder, unable to make significant progress in reducing costs and increasing revenue.

  • With no clear plan or direction, the team began to flounder in their project, unable to make cohesive decisions and struggling to meet deadlines.


The word “flounder” has an interesting history and usage in the English language. Its origins can be traced back to the Middle English word “flounder,” which means to struggle or stumble. It is derived from the Old Norse word “flundra,” which also signifies a struggle or splashing movement.

As a verb, “flounder” is commonly used to describe the action of struggling or moving clumsily, particularly with difficulty maintaining balance. This can refer to physical movement, such as a person floundering in water or stumbling on uneven ground. It can also be applied metaphorically to describe mental or verbal struggles, like someone floundering to find the right words or ideas.

In terms of usage, “flounder” can be used in various contexts. It can describe the physical act of a fish floundering through the water or a person floundering while trying to swim. It can also describe someone floundering in their career, relationships, or any aspect of life where they face difficulties or obstacles.

It’s worth noting that there is a similar-sounding word, “founder,” which means to fail completely or collapse. While the two words are often confused, “flounder” implies struggling or wavering, while “founder” refers to a more definitive failure. The distinction lies in the prefix “fl-” in “flounder,” which conveys the concept of struggling, compared to “founder” without the prefix.

Overall, the word “flounder” is a versatile term that captures the essence of struggle, clumsiness, and difficulty. Its historical roots, combined with its usage in various contexts, make it a valuable word in the English language.