\ˈbȯk, sometimes ˈbȯlk \

Definition of balk 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a ridge of land left unplowed as a dividing line or through carelessness

2 : beam, rafter

4 billiards

a : the space behind the balkline on a billiard table

b : any of the outside divisions made by the balklines

5a sports : failure of a competitor to complete a motion (such as a jump, vault, or dive)

b baseball : an occurrence in which a pitcher stops suddenly or makes an illegal movement after starting to throw a pitch The pitcher was charged with a balk.


balked; balking; balks

Definition of balk (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 archaic : to pass over or by … such an age as ours balks no expense …— William Cowper

2 : to check or stop by or as if by an obstacle : block … had neither been balked nor been frightened …— Francis Hackett

intransitive verb

1 : to stop short and refuse to proceed The horse balked at the jump and threw the rider.

2 : to refuse abruptly used with at Congress balked at putting up the money— Thomas Fleming

3 sports : to commit a balk (see balk entry 1 sense 5)

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Other Words from balk


balker noun

Choose the Right Synonym for balk


frustrate, thwart, foil, baffle, balk mean to check or defeat another's plan or block achievement of a goal. frustrate implies making vain or ineffectual all efforts however vigorous or persistent. frustrated attempts at government reform thwart suggests frustration or checking by crossing or opposing. the army thwarted his attempt at a coup foil implies checking or defeating so as to discourage further effort. foiled by her parents, he stopped trying to see her baffle implies frustration by confusing or puzzling. baffled by the maze of rules and regulations balk suggests the interposing of obstacles or hindrances. officials felt that legal restrictions had balked their efforts to control crime

Examples of balk in a Sentence


the extravagant centerpiece proved to be a balk to the flow of conversation


The horse balked and would not jump the fence. The runner on third base tried to make the pitcher balk.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

After pinch hitter Wilmer Difo executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to push Taylor to third, Bradley inexplicably got charged with a balk while facing Andrew Stevenson. Bob Mcmanaman, azcentral, "Archie Bradley's balk spoils a do-everything night by Zack Greinke as Diamondbacks lose," 10 May 2018 Yu Darvish allowed himself to be rattled by a balk. David Haugh,, "When it comes to conclusions on the Cubs after 15 games, best to avoid extremes," 18 Apr. 2018 After Chris Davis caught it, home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater signaled that O'Day had committed a balk. Jon Meoli,, "Before Darren O'Day's first career ejection, history repeats itself with umpire's balk call," 26 June 2018 Officially, the play was ruled a balk, advancing Diamondbacks to second and third base. Matthew Defranks,, "Defensive miscues cost Marlins in loss to Diamondbacks," 27 June 2018 Marlins rookie starter Elieser Hernandez (0-5), who has yet to notch a major league victory in five career starts, recovered from a hard second-inning tumble on the mound that was ruled a balk to set up runners on second and third with one out. Harvey Fialkov, azcentral, "Zack Godley's curveball helps Diamondbacks fend off Marlins in win," 26 June 2018 Balk talk: Carson Fulmer stumbled off the mound for a first inning balk. Phil Thompson,, "Michael Kopech off to fast start, but Rick Renteria is watching White Sox prospect's changeup," 10 Apr. 2018 The Jaguars' first run scored on a balk, which sent Paul Russo home from third and made it a 3-1 game. Creg Stephenson,, "Auburn baseball stays unbeaten with 7-6 win at South Alabama," 27 Feb. 2018 O'Day's balk Monday was the second of his career, though no runs came across after the ejection. Jon Meoli,, "Before Darren O'Day's first career ejection, history repeats itself with umpire's balk call," 26 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Council members balked at voting on the proposal earlier this week, saying it was given to them at the last minute, without time to vet the contract or ask questions. Jenna Carlesso, Courant Community, "Hartford Council Greenlights Purchase Of Body-Worn Cameras For Police," 29 June 2018 But, after the criminal convictions, the judge balked at further requests. Christy Gutowski,, "Daughter imprisoned in Bali slaying settles mother's estate," 20 June 2018 Some lawmakers balked at the idea of a politician running a science agency, while many have criticized his comments on climate change and LGBT rights. Loren Grush, The Verge, "NASA finally has a permanent administrator — 15 months into Trump’s presidency," 19 Apr. 2018 According to the report, Choudhry balked at providing a timeline for a possible game-streaming launch. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "Microsoft Is Working on a Netflix for Video Games," 16 Mar. 2018 College students who live in cities like Fresno may balk at being charged out-of-state tuition at UCLA. John Myers,, "Radical plan to split California into three states earns spot on November ballot," 13 June 2018 In fact, individuals in both parties may balk at such a significant expansion of government. Sarah Jones, New Republic, "Rural America’s Drinking-Water Crisis," 12 Feb. 2018 Vertex balked, in part, because just 5 percent of cystic fibrosis patients are eligible for Kalydeco, but half are eligible for Orkambi. Ed Silverman,, "Vertex, U.K. health officials at impasse over pricey cystic fibrosis drug," 5 July 2018 Council balked on just one point: booting cars with three or more tickets. Sharon Coolidge,, "Park your car in Cincinnati? It's going to cost you (a lot) more.," 3 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'balk.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of balk


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for balk


Middle English balke, from Old English balca; akin to Old High German balko beam, Latin fulcire to prop, Greek phalanx log, phalanx


see balk entry 1

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Statistics for balk

Last Updated

18 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for balk

The first known use of balk was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for balk



English Language Learners Definition of balk

 (Entry 1 of 2)

baseball : an occurrence in which a pitcher stops suddenly or makes an illegal movement after starting to throw a pitch



English Language Learners Definition of balk (Entry 2 of 2)

: to suddenly show that you do not want to do something : to refuse to do what someone else wants you to do

of a horse, mule, etc. : to stop quickly and refuse to continue going

of an engine : to fail to work in the usual or expected way


\ˈbȯk \
balked; balking

Kids Definition of balk

1 : to stop short and refuse to go

2 : to refuse to do something often suddenly He balked at paying the bill.

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Comments on balk

What made you want to look up balk? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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