\ ˈbȯk, sometimes ˈbȯlk How to pronounce balk (audio) \

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

If the Suns have the chance to get Russell but balk at the price their next moves better be great ones in Booker’s eyes – which probably means signing only Cory Joseph or someone of that caliber is not the way to go. Jeremy Cluff, azcentral, "Cory Joseph rumors: Phoenix Suns interested in free agent point guard," 27 June 2019 Jack Blomgren singled against him leading off the seventh and a balk put him on second. Eric Olson, The Denver Post, "Vandy rides Rocker to win, forces a Game 3 vs. Michigan," 25 June 2019 Rogers trotted home after the Friendswood pitcher was called for a balk. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Three Deer Park teams clinch berths to Directors Tournament title games on Father’s Day," 15 June 2019 After a double and bunt single, Boyd allowed another when he was called for a balk on a pick-off attempt to first base. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers observations: Boyd gets battered in Omaha vs. Royals, 7-3," 13 June 2019 His Nationals debut was every bit as inauspicious: Before throwing a single pitch, Barraclough let in a run via a balk. Howard Fendrich, The Seattle Times, "New-Look Mets 2-0 after Alonso, other kids beat Nats 11-8," 30 Mar. 2019 After a Wissman single in the third made it 2-0, Gilmour Academy sophomore Vinny Bandwen scored from third in the bottom of inning on a balk by Eagles pitcher Sebastian Gongora., "Gilmour Academy falls 4-2 to top-seed Dayton Chaminade Julienne in Div. II state baseball championship," 9 June 2019 Toglia led off with a walk and advanced to third on a balk and passed ball. Avi Sholkoff, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan falls to UCLA, 5-4, in 12 inn.; trip to College World Series decided today," 9 June 2019 The Rangers lost Sunday after a balk on Keone Kela was called only after Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch brought it to the umpires' attention. Jeff Wilson, star-telegram, "Rangers Reaction: Things get weird for Rangers at home plate," 14 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Democratic lawmakers had wanted to provide access to anyone who meets financial eligibility requirements but lacks legal residency, but Newsom balked over the price tag. San Diego Union-Tribune, "California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed his first budget. Here’s where the $215 billion will go," 27 June 2019 Democratic lawmakers had wanted to provide access to anyone who meets financial eligibility requirements but lacks legal residency, but Newsom balked over the price tag. John Myers,, "California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed his first budget. Here’s where the $215 billion will go," 27 June 2019 After winning approval in the House Tuesday on a bipartisan basis, the bill never came up for a vote in the Senate Wednesday, with some lawmaker balking at other elements in it that were related to health care cost controls. Neil Vigdor,, "Lawmakers seek to revive bill that could allow Canadian prescription drug imports to Connecticut," 6 June 2019 Synek also balked at the notion that voters would support a combined middle and primary school, citing a district survey in which 62 percent of respondents opposed a K-8 school., "Independence voters to see 3.4-mill schools levy on Nov. 5 ballot," 26 June 2019 Some balked when Facebook paid $1 billion for a 12-person loss-making and revenue-free Instagram in 2012, but the app has proved a huge hit among younger users and could now be worth $158 billion, according to analysts at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. Hannah Murphy,, "New Instagram chief reveals plans for online retailing," 25 June 2019 Tennant balked at the offer and the county reassessed the appraisal, offering more money. Washington Post, "Ellicott City business owner who weathered two major floods will shut her doors," 23 June 2019 When Zigun announced mermaids would be walking on land, people balked. Scottie Andrew And Nadeem Muaddi, CNN, "Mermaids are taking over New York this weekend. Here's why," 22 June 2019 But when Smith suggested purchasing already treated wood, Frankland balked. Richard A. Marini,, "These 3 industrial buildings were given a second life in downtown San Antonio," 21 June 2019

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

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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Statistics for balk

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

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 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with balk

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for balk

Spanish Central: Translation of balk

Nglish: Translation of balk for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of balk for Arabic Speakers

Comments on balk

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to complain fretfully

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