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A European flounder, Platichthys flesus.


Etymology 1[edit]

 flounder on Wikipedia

From Middle English flowndre, from Anglo-Norman floundre, from Old Northern French flondre, from Old Norse flyðra[1][2], from Proto-Germanic *flunþrijǭ. Cognate with Danish flynder, German Flunder, Swedish flundra.


flounder (plural flounders or flounder)

  1. A European species of flatfish having dull brown colouring with reddish-brown blotches; fluke, European flounder, Platichthys flesus.
  2. (Canada, US) Any of various flatfish of the family Pleuronectidae or Bothidae.
  3. A bootmaker's tool for crimping boot fronts.
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Particularly: "the bootmaker's tool"
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

Possibly from the noun. Probably a blend of flounce +‎ founder[3] or a blend of founder +‎ blunder[4] or from Dutch flodderen (wade). See other terms beginning with fl, such as flutter, flitter, float, flap, flub, flip.


flounder (third-person singular simple present flounders, present participle floundering, simple past and past participle floundered)

  1. (intransitive) To flop around as a fish out of water.
  2. (intransitive) To make clumsy attempts to move or regain one's balance.
    Robert yanked Connie's leg vigorously, causing her to flounder and eventually fall.
  3. (intransitive) To act clumsily or confused; to struggle or be flustered.
    He gave a good speech, but floundered when audience members asked questions he could not answer well.
    • 1996, Janette Turner Hospital, Oyster, Virago Press, paperback edition, page 136
      He is assessing directions, but he is not lost, not floundering.
  4. To be in serious difficulty.
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A passenger's history of the Tube, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 159:
      Meanwhile bus and tram competition was causing the Central London Railway to flounder after its early success, and as for the City & South London ... that had always floundered.
Usage notes[edit]

Frequently confused with the verb founder. The difference is one of severity; floundering (struggling to maintain a position) comes before foundering (losing it completely by falling, sinking or failing).



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2022), “flounder”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ flynder” in Ordbog over det danske Sprog
  3. ^ flounder”, in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.
  4. ^ flounder”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of flowndre