\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

That probably describes cheapskates, who likely balk at paying finance charges for carrying a balance. Gregory Karp, The Seattle Times, "A cheapskate’s guide to shopping for credit cards," 16 Oct. 2018 Josh Jung singled, then moved second when Singer balked — the first time in four years a CWS game featured two balks. Mike Malloy,, "Gators struggle early, fall to Texas Tech in CWS opener," 18 June 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Justin Sullivan / Getty When Apple launched the iPhone X last year, some reviewers balked at its price, which starts at $999. Dan Frommer, Recode, "Apple got us to spend more money on iPhones — and that’s driving most of Apple’s growth," 1 Aug. 2018 What if the location balks at covering your new car? Christopher Elliott, USA TODAY, "Travel nightmares: What to do when they run out of rental cars," 8 July 2018 One is if the more moderate Republican senators like Maine’s Susan Collins balk at Trump’s nomination. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy gives Trump a chance to remake America.," 27 June 2018 If the tutor balks at telling you, that should tell you something. Gerald Bradshaw, Post-Tribune, "Devote ample study time to SAT," 30 Mar. 2018 The Egyptian military in the past balked at arming the Bedouins for fear the weapons could be turned against security forces. Brian Rohan, Fox News, "Egypt arming Sinai tribesmen in fight against Islamic State," 27 Sep. 2018 But Dish has balked at Univision’s demands and declined Univision’s offer of a two-week contract extension to continue the talks. Meg James,, "Univision channels go dark on Dish Network and Sling TV due to contract impasse," 30 June 2018 Walks, balks and cramps, meanwhile, have made Darvish’s short Cubs career seem like an eternity. Steve Rosenbloom,, "Cubs had better find a regular spot in the rotation for Mike Montgomery," 20 June 2018 Ultimately there is a rent price at which prospective tenants balk and move on to another house, leading to a vacancy for the single-family rental company. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "Wall Street’s new housing frontier: Single-family rental homes," 18 May 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

15 Nov 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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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 enclose within walls

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