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to stop, as at an obstacle, and refuse to proceed or to do something specified (usually followed by at):
He balked at making the speech.
(of a horse, mule, etc.) to stop short and stubbornly refuse to go on.
Baseball. to commit a balk.
to place an obstacle in the way of; hinder; thwart:
a sudden reversal that balked her hopes.
Archaic. to let slip; fail to use:
to balk an opportunity.
a check or hindrance; defeat; disappointment.
a strip of land left unplowed.
a crossbeam in the roof of a house that unites and supports the rafters; tie beam.
any heavy timber used for building purposes.
Baseball. an illegal motion by a pitcher while one or more runners are on base, as a pitch in which there is either an insufficient or too long a pause after the windup or stretch, a pretended throw to first or third base or to the batter with one foot on the pitcher’s rubber, etc., resulting in a penalty advancing the runner or runners one base.
Billiards. any of the eight panels or compartments lying between the cushions of the table and the balklines.
Obsolete. a miss, slip, or failure:
to make a balk.
in balk, inside any of the spaces in back of the balklines on a billiard table.
Contemporary Examples

Sidebar: the Electoral College is the balk rule of government.
Baseball’s Problem Is Politics’ Problem Doug McIntyre November 3, 2014

“Megalodon fossils appear in shallower marine sediments,” balk said.
Shark Week Is Lying Again: Megalodon Is Definitely Extinct David Shiffman August 14, 2014

So far that ruling has not caused any of the young men to balk at testifying.
The Sandusky Sexual Abuse Case’s Biggest Mysteries Diane Dimond June 4, 2012

The president warned Republicans not to balk at raising the debt ceiling and challenged the NRA on gun control.
Obama Talks Tough on Budget, Guns Howard Kurtz January 13, 2013

These bills have wide bipartisan support, but certain provisions have caused some lawmakers to balk.
Trafficked Women’s Second Chance Hugh Ryan October 13, 2011

Historical Examples

He could be relied upon to balk every effort my mother might make to find me.
Vandemark’s Folly Herbert Quick

It seemed that nothing could balk her ambition in that direction.
Ruth Fielding and the Gypsies Alice B. Emerson

I gathered that the snap indicated relief at my compliance, and that he had been afraid I might balk.
Frenzied Finance Thomas W. Lawson

He says that half of it is mine, but he may balk on taking charge.
David Lannarck, Midget George S. Harney

Ah, would it not be sweet revenge indeed to balk the King in this venture so dear to his heart!
The Outlaw of Torn Edgar Rice Burroughs

(intransitive) usually foll by at. to stop short, esp suddenly or unexpectedly; jib: the horse balked at the jump
(intransitive) foll by at. to turn away abruptly; recoil: he balked at the idea of murder
(transitive) to thwart, check, disappoint, or foil: he was balked in his plans
(transitive) to avoid deliberately: he balked the question
(transitive) to miss unintentionally
a roughly squared heavy timber beam
a timber tie beam of a roof
an unploughed ridge to prevent soil erosion or mark a division on common land
an obstacle; hindrance; disappointment
(baseball) an illegal motion by a pitcher towards the plate or towards the base when there are runners on base, esp without delivering the ball

Old English balca “ridge, bank,” from or influenced by Old Norse balkr “ridge of land,” especially between two plowed furrows, both from Proto-Germanic *balkan-, *belkan- (cf. Old Saxon balko, Danish bjelke, Old Frisian balka, Old High German balcho, German Balken “beam, rafter”), from PIE *bhelg- “beam, plank” (cf. Latin fulcire “to prop up, support,” fulcrum “bedpost;” Lithuanian balziena “cross-bar;” and possibly Greek phalanx “trunk, log, line of battle”). Modern senses are figurative, representing the balk as a hindrance or obstruction (see balk (v.)). Baseball sense is first attested 1845.

late 14c., “to leave an unplowed ridge when plowing,” from balk (n.). Extended meaning “to omit, intentionally neglect” is mid-15c. Most modern senses are figurative, from the notion of a balk in the fields as a hindrance or obstruction: sense of “stop short” (as a horse confronted with an obstacle) is late 15c.; that of “to refuse” is 1580s. Related: Balked; balking.


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    Sports. (in track events) the starting line. Billiards. a straight line drawn across the table behind which the cue balls are placed in beginning a game. any of four lines, each near to and parallel with one side of the cushion, that divide the table into a large central panel or section and eight smaller […]

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