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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

Obama administration officials wanted the BSA signed by the end of last year, but Karzai has balked.
Karzai Gambles with the Taliban Bill Roggio January 27, 2014

Gerawan consented, but after a few months at the table, UFW balked again.
A Crazy California Union Scandal James Poulos August 1, 2014

Rapaport balked, however, when ATCQ insisted on receiving producer credit on the film.
The Hip-Hop Doc War Chris Lee July 7, 2011

At first he balked when his record company suggested that he work with established songwriters to hone his compositions.
Jake Bugg Isn’t the New Bob Dylan. He’s the Male Adele. Andrew Romano November 18, 2013

Soon, Supreme Group balked at paying the fee to its mentor, PWC, prompting arbitration.
Supreme Group Probed Over No-Bid Contracts to Feed Troops in Afghanistan Aram Roston November 26, 2011

Historical Examples

Fellows shivered, attempted some puerile protest, balked, and stammeringly obeyed his restless and irritated companion.
Three Thousand Dollars Anna Katharine Green

Well, gentlemen, you are balked this time; but what matters it?
Homeward Bound James Fenimore Cooper

Mary turned to me with a troubled glance; she thought that perhaps her balked benefactor was angry with her too.
The Days of My Life Mrs. Oliphant

Hugh Ritson was hardly the man to be balked by such impediments.
A Son of Hagar Sir Hall Caine

She was always such a willing creature, but then she pulled back and all but balked.
White Dandy; or, Master and I Velma Caldwell Melville

(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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  • Balky

    given to balking; stubborn; obstinate: a balky mule. Contemporary Examples Then, with wind blowing him out horizontal under the wing, he hooks a boot on that balky wheel, kicks the mother home. The Ballad of Johnny France Richard Ben Cramer January 11, 2014 Historical Examples O foolish minister, trying in that way to manage a […]

  • Balking

    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 […]

  • Balkis

    noun the name in the Koran of the queen of Sheba2 Historical Examples If now you have spoken truth, take this letter to Queen balkis; then come away. The Curious Book of Birds Abbie Farwell Brown While I study astronomy I think neither of balkis nor anything else on earth. Balthasar Anatole France balkis trembled […]

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