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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.
Historical Examples

What balks or breaks others is fuel for his burning progress to contact and amorous joy.
The Oxford Book of American Essays Various

The charity that balks at giving, reacts upon a man and deadens him.
The Untroubled Mind Herbert J. Hall

The green tree may have been suggested to his mind by an actual tree growing out of one of the balks.
The English Village Community Frederic Seebohm

Three balks shall be called “no vault,” and must be recorded as one of the three trials.
How to Fence Aaron A. Warford

Now, your English tourists have always a residue of scruple about them which balks their genius.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 53, No. 331, May, 1843 Various

It is under this custom that the strips and balks are gradually disappearing.
The English Village Community Frederic Seebohm

As it is now, Vaudreuil balks Montcalm, and that will ruin us in the end unless you make it otherwise.
The Seats Of The Mighty, Complete Gilbert Parker

Ill try it on Billy Bumps when he balks, said Tess, in a small voice.
The Corner House Girls on a Tour Grace Brooks Hill

Every strip is separated from the next by balks on even ground, and linches on the steep slopes of a hill.
Villainage in England Paul Vinogradoff

Three balks of timber are lying in our road,—one, a very large and heavy monster, directly across it.
The Philosophy of Natural Theology William Jackson

(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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