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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

Cameron and Clegg were both able to confidently disregard the balking of their more extreme factions.
Don’t Underestimate Britain’s New Coalition Clive Irving May 11, 2010

The White House, meanwhile, continues to reject this plan, balking at the idea of dragging the process out further.
7 Best Moments from Sunday Talk July 23, 2011

We also see Conan balking at a lucrative writing career on The Simpsons because he wants to be a performer.
Secrets of the Late Night War Bryan Curtis November 7, 2010

With former Kansas City Mayor Carol Marinovich balking, the Democrats are left searching for a top-flight candidate for the seat.
Who Will Fall Next? Samuel P. Jacobs January 19, 2010

The Democrats want to block those cuts for a year, and the Republicans are balking.
Obama Heckles Congress in Fiscal Cliff Speech Howard Kurtz December 30, 2012

Historical Examples

He rapidly unlocked the door and locked it again behind him, just balking a blundering charge from the young man in the billycock.
The Innocence of Father Brown G. K. Chesterton

Jibbing, or “balking” as the Americans term it, is a detestable vice.
The Horsewoman Alice M. Hayes

You will usually find an Englishman balking and kicking at innovation up to the last moment.
Last Words Stephen Crane

At this balking of their hopes they set up a howl of disappointment.
The Trail of The Badger Sidford F. Hamp

At the camp it had meant breaking bounds, balking the Military Police, doing forbidden things generally.
A Poor Wise Man Mary Roberts Rinehart

(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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