balked; balking; balks

Definition of balk

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to refuse abruptly used with at Congress 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
4 : beam, rafter
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


The horse balked and would not jump the fence. The runner on third base tried to make the pitcher balk.


the extravagant centerpiece proved to be a balk to the flow of conversation
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

When the two sides came close to an agreement in the spring, outlined in a 150-page document, Xi appeared to balk, scuttling the process. Chris Buckley,, "Hong Kong crisis tests confidence in Xi’s iron grasp," 7 Sep. 2019 When the two sides came close to an agreement in the spring, outlined in a 150-page document, Mr. Xi appeared to balk, scuttling the process. Chris Buckley, New York Times, "Is Xi Mishandling Hong Kong Crisis? Hints of Unease in China’s Leadership," 7 Sep. 2019 Apple's iPhone sales are down this year, 15%, according to CFRA Research, as consumers started to balk at paying $1,000 for models. Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY, "iPhone 11: Battery life, smaller phones, privacy notifications are what you're looking for," 7 Sep. 2019 Companies are likely to balk at this pricier option, but Ride Report's Henderson says it, too, is an eventual possibility. Irina Ivanova, CBS News, "E-Scooters are worse for the environment than many claim, study indicates," 6 Aug. 2019 Nevertheless, the campaign seemed to balk at such concerns Friday. Fox News, "Biden joined by son Hunter on campaign trail at California fundraiser," 20 July 2019 Luke Voit tied the score in the fifth with his first home run since June 14, and catcher Mike Zunino caused Charlie Morton to balk home the tiebreaking run in a four-run sixth that included Didi Gregorius' two-run single. Ronald Blum,, "‘Savages’ sweep: Boone’s rant sparks Yankees over Rays in DH," 19 July 2019 Chief among them is the potential for Congress to balk at funding what some might consider a political stunt. The Editors, Scientific American, "The U.S. Should Go Back to the Moon--But Not on Its Own," 3 July 2019 The 76ers are unlikely to balk at a four-year deal. Michael Shapiro,, "Five Big Questions Surrounding Jimmy Butler's NBA Free Agency," 27 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 After the balk, Jackson Hunter was hit by starter Chandler Davis. David Hinojosa,, "Blanco rallies past Van Alstyne and into the 3A state-title game," 7 June 2019 George Springer hit a leadoff single, advanced to second on a balk and took third on a groundout by Jose Altuve . Kristie Reiken,, "Charlie Morton Strikes Out 10 As Astros End Yankees' Streak At 9," 30 Apr. 2018 Coonrod struck out his next two batters, but the inning will be remembered for his three walks and balk and the ball that wasn’t caught by Pillar. John Shea,, "San Francisco Giants put up little fight, lose to Nationals 4-0," 6 Aug. 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

19 Oct 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)

: 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

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 be made up of

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