flounder, founder
These two words are easily confused because their form and meanings are both close. The physical meaning of flounder is ‘to struggle in mud or while wading’ and hence ‘to stumble or move clumsily’, and from these meanings developed the abstract sense ‘to perform a task badly or without knowledge; to be out of one's depth’. The corresponding meanings of founder are (physical) with reference to a ship, ‘to fill with water and sink’, and (abstract) with reference to a plan, scheme, intention, etc., ‘to come to nothing, to fail’. In the abstract senses, where the confusion mostly lies, it is therefore normally people who flounder and plans and relationships (and suchlike) that founder. In practice the use of both words in their physical meanings as part of a larger metaphor (as in the 1980 example that follows) tends to blur the boundaries between literal and metaphorical use. The following examples will help to clarify the differences between flounder and founder: (flounder)

• The family physician bucks the case to a psychosomaticist, who flounders in jargon —Time, 1971

• ‘You'll feel better later on,’ he floundered —H. Forrester, 1990

• (counter example) Creativity, once a hallmark of primary education, floundered on the exams altar —Times Educational Supplement, 2007

• (founder) I wanted to leave England…I did not intend to be aboard when that particular Titanic finally foundered in a sea of bureaucracy —K. Hagenbach, 1980

• Without…help, the marriage may founder, thus providing…another dire example to romantic young people that ‘arranged marriages are best’ —P. Caplan, 1985

• Alfred's quest to obtain a vital set of aerial photographs has foundered in a Kafkaesque comedy of setbacks and misunderstandings —Times, 2006

Modern English usage. 2014.

, , , , (as a ship by filling with water), / (of metals), , , / , ,

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Founder — may refer to: * Founder (noun) With respect to a settlement, organization, company or enterprise, the person who started or founded (as if forging steel) it. * Founder (noun) A metalworker operating a foundry. * Foundering (verb) – Sinking, used… …   Wikipedia

  • founder — Ⅰ. founder [1] ► NOUN ▪ a person who founds an institution or settlement. Ⅱ. founder [2] ► NOUN ▪ the owner or operator of a foundry. Ⅲ. founder [3] …   English terms dictionary

  • Founder — Found er, n. [From {Found} to cast.] One who founds; one who casts metals in various forms; a caster; as, a founder of cannon, bells, hardware, or types. [1913 Webster] {Fonder s dust}. Same as {Facing}, 4. {Founder s sand}, a kind of sand… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • founder — found·er n: one that founds or establishes: as a: one that establishes a foundation b: founding father Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • Founder — Found er, v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Foundered}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Foundering}.] [OF. fondrer to fall in, cf. F. s effondrer, fr. fond bottom, L. fundus. See {Found} to establish.] 1. (Naut.) To become filled with water, and sink, as a ship. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Founder — Found er, n. (Far.) (a) A lameness in the foot of a horse, occasioned by inflammation; closh. (b) An inflammatory fever of the body, or acute rheumatism; as, chest founder. See {Chest ffounder}. James White. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • founder — [n] person who establishes an institution architect, author, beginner, benefactor, builder, constructor, creator, designer, establisher, forebearer, framer, generator, initiator, institutor, inventor, maker, organizer, originator, patron, planner …   New thesaurus

  • founder — founder1 [foun′dər] vi. [ME foundren < OFr fondrer, to fall in, sink < fond, bottom < L fundus, bottom: see FOUND2] 1. to stumble, fall, or go lame 2. to become stuck as in soft ground; bog down 3. to fill with water, as during a storm,… …   English World dictionary

  • Founder — Found er, v. t. To cause internal inflammation and soreness in the feet or limbs of (a horse), so as to disable or lame him. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Founder — Found er, n. [Cf. OF. fondeor, F. fondateur, L. fundator.] One who founds, establishes, and erects; one who lays a foundation; an author; one from whom anything originates; one who endows. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • founder — ▪ I. founder found‧er 1 [ˈfaʊndə ǁ ər] noun [countable] ORGANIZATIONS a person who starts a new company or organization: • The company s founder and chairman, Charles Munch, has resigned.   [m0] ▪ II. founder founder 2 verb [intransitive] …   Financial and business terms

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