\ ˈbȯk How to pronounce balk (audio) , sometimes ˈbȯlk \
balked; balking; balks

Definition of balk

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to refuse abruptly used with atCongress balked at putting up the money— Thomas Fleming
2 : to stop short and refuse to proceed The horse balked at the jump and threw the rider.
3 sports : to commit a balk (see balk entry 2 sense 1)

transitive verb

1 : to check or stop by or as if by an obstacle : block … had neither been balked nor been frightened …— Francis Hackett
2 archaic : to pass over or by … such an age as ours balks no expense …— William Cowper



Definition of balk (Entry 2 of 2)

1a 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.
b sports : failure of a competitor to complete a motion (such as a jump, vault, or dive)
2 billiards
a : the space behind the balkline on a billiard table
b : any of the outside divisions made by the balklines
5 : a ridge of land left unplowed as a dividing line or through carelessness

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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

Verb The horse balked and would not jump the fence. The runner on third base tried to make the pitcher balk. Noun the extravagant centerpiece proved to be a balk to the flow of conversation
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Even experienced bakers may balk at the idea of making doughnuts at home. Marshall Bright, CNN Underscored, "Cooking from scratch: 6 delicious cooking projects to tackle while staying home," 31 July 2020 But experience has taught her that White Christians often balk when discussions get difficult and pastors dread offending White congregants. Daniel Burke, CNN, "Why Black Christians are bracing for a 'whitelash'," 10 July 2020 When customers balk, USAA sometimes spends money on legal fees that cost more than the initial claim. Dallas News, "What happened to USAA? Why is it denying some storm claims that should be slam dunks for homeowners?," 9 July 2020 As Republicans shift on masks, two Texas sheriffs balk at enforcing the governor’s mask order. Michael Gold, New York Times, "N.Y.C. Reopening: Dog Runs and Manicures, but Still No Indoor Dining," 6 July 2020 And some parents balk at bringing in even babies for vaccines, opening the door to another potential crisis down the road. Jenny Gold,, "Bay Area pediatric practices struggle to adapt and survive during coronavirus pandemic," 21 Apr. 2020 The Trump administration did back off, though, from its plans to completely freeze the targets at 2020 levels, a move that most automakers publicly balked at and worked behind the scenes to steer the White House away from at least slightly. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Ford will stick with California fuel economy deal even after Trump unveils weaker standards," 31 Mar. 2020 Six months later, on November 21st, Yanukovych balked at signing the E.U. agreement and announced instead a separate pact with Moscow. Adam Entous, The New Yorker, "The Ukrainian Prosecutor Behind Trump’s Impeachment," 16 Dec. 2019 The haredi parties balked, however, and the Knesset was disbanded, leading to the second election. Sam Sokol,, "Netanyahu tasked to form Israel’s government," 25 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Opponents of the project balk at the enormous spending from Avangrid and HydroQuebec. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Maine’s most expensive ballot fight ever unites natural gas companies and environmentalists," 30 July 2020 Amid the Candlestick breezes, Miller committed a balk. Steve Kroner,, "July 11, 1961: After Stu Miller’s balk, NL wins All-Star Game at Candlestick," 11 July 2020 Granted, this was Class A, but the 10th tended to be full of four-pitch walks, errant pickoff throws, fielding errors and the occasional run-scoring balk. Dallas News, "MLB’s new extra-inning rule presents Rangers with unique chances and challenges," 12 July 2020 For nearly six decades, the cause of Stu Miller’s balk in the 1961 All-Star Game at Candlestick Park has been debated. Steve Kroner,, "July 11, 1961: After Stu Miller’s balk, NL wins All-Star Game at Candlestick," 11 July 2020 Listening to the radio, Faith overhears a representative of local citizens rights organization balk at the notion the French were developing vaccines for the city. Jennifer Wilson, The New Republic, "The Down Days Is an Eerily Prescient Pandemic Novel," 10 June 2020 The regular season will feature games of either three or five innings, with the gaming difficulties all set to a modulated format (guess pitch, quick counts and balks turned off), per ESPN. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, "Report: MLB forms virtual 'The Show' league with one player from each team, 29-game schedule," 10 Apr. 2020 Pinch-hitting with Ben Zobrist on second after a one-out double, Kemp swung and missed at strike three, but Giovanny Gallegos was called for a balk., "‘‘First and second pitch of the inning, felt like I made two competitive pitches that I wanted to, and they went out,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s just frustrating. I mean that’s the only thing I can say.’’," 22 Sep. 2019 Matthew Christian put Campbell on top for good with a two-run homer, while A.J. Hrica and Collin Wolf added RBIs, and Hrica later scored on a balk. Creg Stephenson |, al, "South Alabama baseball splits doubleheader with Campbell," 16 Feb. 2020

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5

History and Etymology for balk

Noun and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for balk

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for balk

Last Updated

5 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Balk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for balk


How to pronounce balk (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of balk

 (Entry 1 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



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

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


\ ˈbȯk How to pronounce balk (audio) \
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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More from Merriam-Webster on balk

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for balk

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with balk

Spanish Central: Translation of balk

Nglish: Translation of balk for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of balk for Arabic Speakers

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