1 [floun-der]
verb (used without object)
to struggle with stumbling or plunging movements (usually followed by about, along, on, through, etc.): He saw the child floundering about in the water.
to struggle clumsily or helplessly: He floundered helplessly on the first day of his new job.

1570–80; perhaps blend of flounce1 and founder2

flounderingly, adverb
unfloundering, adjective

2. falter, waver, muddle.
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2 [floun-der]
noun, plural (especially collectively) flounder (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) flounders.
a European, marine flatfish, Platichthys flesus, used for food.
any of numerous similar or closely related non-European flatfishes.
any flatfish other than soles.

1400–50; late Middle English < Anglo-French floundre < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian flundra

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
flounder1 (ˈflaʊndə)
1.  to struggle; to move with difficulty, as in mud
2.  to behave awkwardly; make mistakes
3.  the act of floundering
usage  Flounder is sometimes wrongly used where founder is meant: the project foundered (not floundered) because of a lack of funds

flounder2 (ˈflaʊndə)
n , pl -der, -ders
1.  Also called: fluke a European flatfish, Platichthys flesus having a greyish-brown body covered with prickly scales: family Pleuronectidae: an important food fish
2.  (US), (Canadian) any flatfish of the families Bothidae (turbot, etc) and Pleuronectidae (plaice, halibut, sand dab, etc)
[C14: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse flythra, Norwegian flundra]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1590s, perhaps an alteration of founder (q.v.), influenced by Du. flodderen "to flop about," or native verbs in fl- expressing clumsy motion. Related: Floundered; floundering.

"flatfish," c.1304, from Anglo-Fr. floundre, from O.N.Fr. flondre, from O.N. flydhra, related to M.L.G. vlundere, cognate with Gk. platys "flat, wide, broad" (see place (n.)).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
It is no wonder they flounder once they reach higher ed.
Big firms with expensive lawyers can usually navigate the system, but small
  players flounder.
While polar bears flounder in the face of shrinking ice floes, another furry
  creature has gotten a boost from climate change.
Then there are people who need to be directed and only flounder if they're
  allowed to do whatever they want.
Images for flounder
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