I'm not sure if I'm using "flounder" right.

Ms. R was familiar with Student M, the sixth grader. She expected him to continue to sail through 7th grade in a similar style to 6th grade. But in 7th grade, when expectations increased and the student began to flounder, Ms. R had no idea.

Is "flounder" the right verb here? Or is there some other verb used in connection with sailboats?

I want a verb that means that the sailboat is having trouble staying upright, i.e. not capsizing.

  • 3
    You're looking for founder (begin to sink), but flounder works as well, both in denotation and the nautical theme.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 16:02
  • 5
    I think flounder is, in fact, the word you are looking for. I think founder is just to sink/fail where flounder gives off the struggle you are looking for.
    – Hank
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 16:09
  • @Hank - Oh, I forgot about "founder." What concerns me is that there are different types of boats. I want to make sure the verb I choose fits naturally in the sailboat context. Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 16:23
  • 1
    @aparente001 I see no reason why it can't be used to describe a sailboat. It's a generalized word.
    – Hank
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 17:04
  • 1
    You may be amused by birdiewarbles.blogspot.com/2012/10/… Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


As mentioned in the comments both flounder and founder are appropriate words.

I think vocabulary.com gives a good overview of the differences.

Here is their overview of flounder.

A flounder is a fish, but as a verb, it means to blunder about, to be in serious trouble. In the following examples, something is struggling but hasn't completely failed...

Compared to their overview of founder.

A founder is someone who starts something, but as a verb, founder literally means "to sink." Figuratively, it's "to collapse or fail completely."

So if the student is merely struggling to stay afloat then you should choose flounder, but if they are completely over their head and drowning then founder is the better word.

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