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


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

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 But Raunak and his friends — as youngsters do — balked at the clunky interface. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, "One vote can change everything, Virginia," 4 Nov. 2019 Even Jay Gatsby might have balked at such daring, but the effect is monumental and intoxicating. Nancy Hass, ELLE Decor, "This Candy-Colored Revivalist Mansion Outside Chicago Brings the Drama," 16 Oct. 2019 But some authors might balk at making critical reviews of their work available for anyone to read. Jeffrey Brainard, Science | AAAS, "In bid to boost transparency, bioRxiv begins posting peer reviews next to preprints," 10 Oct. 2019 But potential investors balked at that number, and the lossmaking company reportedly considered cutting its valuation to as low as $10 billion before canceling its IPO. Sherisse Pham, CNN, "SoftBank's big tech ambitions in doubt as it loses billions on WeWork and Uber," 26 Sep. 2019 But when Atkinson sent the complaint to the DNI for review, the letter says, DNI officials balked. Ken Dilanian, NBC News, "Intelligence chief won't turn over whistleblower complaint to House committee," 18 Sep. 2019 But Chinese President Xi Jinping balked at enshrining key provisions in the country’s legal code, leading to the talks’ collapse, according to US officials., "China said on Friday it was canceling planned tariff increases on American soybeans and pork, the latest sign of a diplomatic thaw in the US-China trade war that could lead to an interim agreement this fall.," 14 Sep. 2019 But Green Bay balked on working out a contract extension with Clinton-Dix with free agency looming in 2019, instead trading him to the Washington Redskins seven games into the 2018 campaign. Mark Inabinett |, al, "Bears’ Ha Ha Clinton-Dix faces old Green Bay friends in NFL’s 2019 opener," 5 Sep. 2019 But banks balked at supporting such a nonconventional business model for the area. Fortune, "Winemakers in New York’s Finger Lakes Region Are Moving Beyond Riesling," 31 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun So far that’s been a tough sell as would-be investors, including those who are part of the first fund, balk. Tim Culpan | Bloomberg, Washington Post, "Masa Son Desperately Needs That Second $100 Billion," 6 Nov. 2019 Some people, like researchers Ádám Nagy and Attila Kölcsey, balk at McCrindle’s generation-naming efforts. Wired, "Marketers Wanted a New Generation to Target, Hence Alphas," 17 Sep. 2019 Watson went to third base on another balk and Ian Evans singled him in. Randy Mcroberts,, "IronBirds rally in 9th, walk-off for sweep over Williamsport," 16 July 2019 The Diamondbacks' Tim Locastro scores the go-ahead run on a balk by Dodgers reliever Yimi Garcia on Friday night.(Norm Hall / Getty Images) Garcia got the next two batters to conclude the bizarre outing. Los Angeles Times, "Max Muncy expected to miss two weeks with wrist fracture; Dodgers fall to Diamondbacks," 30 Aug. 2019 Fowler singled, advanced to second base on a balk and scored on Goldschmidt’s double into the left-field corner. Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post, "Rockies get strong effort from Senzatela, defeat Cardinals again," 11 Sep. 2019 Mattingly was ejected in the fifth for arguing about a balk, and Smith was gone before the inning ended, too, after the Braves scored five runs, including Acuña's first homer. Steven Wine,, "Marlins again have no answer for Braves’ Teheran, Acuna, Albies," 10 Aug. 2019 Coonrod continued his misery with a bases-loaded balk, and then came the fly to Pillar. John Shea,, "San Francisco Giants put up little fight, lose to Nationals 4-0," 6 Aug. 2019 Facing Márquez, Jesse Winker hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the first inning and advanced to third on a balk. Bobby Nightengale,, "Luis Castillo allows 6 runs, Cincinnati Reds crushed in loss to Colorado Rockies," 27 July 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


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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Statistics for balk

Last Updated

16 Nov 2019

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)

: 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


How to pronounce balk (audio)

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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