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

The Trump administration has balked at the idea, however, which could violate a 1997 agreement that bars the permanent basing of NATO troops in former Warsaw Pact countries. Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times, "Trump plans second visit to Poland although he probably won’t get a ‘Fort Trump’," 29 Aug. 2019 In an extraordinary move, automakers have balked at Mr. Trump’s proposal, mainly because California and 13 other states plan to continue enforcing their current, stricter rules, and to sue the Trump administration. New York Times, "Trump’s Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules Shows Signs of Disarray," 20 Aug. 2019 Automakers have balked at Trump’s proposal, mainly because California and 13 other states plan to continue enforcing their current, stricter rules, and to sue the Trump administration. Hiroko Tabuchi,, "Trump presses carmakers not to join Calif.’s fight against easing Obama-era pollution rules," 20 Aug. 2019 Besides not taking action on stricter background checks, McConnell has also balked at a House proposal extending the amount of time firearms dealers must wait for a response from the background check system before the sale can proceed. Phillip M. Bailey, The Courier-Journal, "Despite back-to-back mass shootings, McConnell unlikely to accept gun control legislation," 3 Aug. 2019 Some Swedes have balked at Trump’s advocacy, seeing it as an attempt at interference. Washington Post, "Rapper A$AP Rocky tells Swedish court he begged accuser to back off before brawl," 1 Aug. 2019 Many lawmakers say the formula is unsustainable and have balked at violating the draw rate and setting a precedent of dipping deeper into the reserve. Becky Bohrer, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s oil money headaches: ‘We did this to ourselves’," 9 Aug. 2019 Still, a vocal minority of musicians and purist fans balk at the notion of tinkering with what the Beatles and George Martin signed off on originally. Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times, "A new ending: Behind the Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ 50th-anniversary remix," 8 Aug. 2019 Barclays balked, drawing a line at $2 billion, according to a Bloomberg News account. Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica, "How Trump’s Political Appointees Overruled Tougher Settlements With Big Banks," 4 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 From dramatic rundowns, to wild pitches that scored the winning run (4-3 over Edgewood Saturday night) and balk calls that plated the winning run (6-5 over PYBSA Friday afternoon), the boys made it a very entertaining and exciting weekend. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Deer Park Mustang All-Stars drop South Zone title game to Medina Valley," 29 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

17 Sep 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

What made you want to look up balk? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


concealment of treason or felony

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