verb (used with or without object), noun
verb (used without object)
- to stop, as at an obstacle, and refuse to proceed or to do something specified (usually followed by at): He balked at making the speech.
- (of a horse, mule, etc.) to stop short and stubbornly refuse to go on.
- Baseball. to commit a balk.
verb (used with object)
- to place an obstacle in the way of; hinder; thwart: a sudden reversal that balked her hopes.
- Archaic. to let slip; fail to use: to balk an opportunity.
- a check or hindrance; defeat; disappointment.
- a strip of land left unplowed.
- a crossbeam in the roof of a house that unites and supports the rafters; tie beam.
- any heavy timber used for building purposes.
- Baseball. an illegal motion by a pitcher while one or more runners are on base, as a pitch in which there is either an insufficient or too long a pause after the windup or stretch, a pretended throw to first or third base or to the batter with one foot on the pitcher’s rubber, etc., resulting in a penalty advancing the runner or runners one base.
- Billiards. any of the eight panels or compartments lying between the cushions of the table and the balklines.
- Obsolete. a miss, slip, or failure: to make a balk.
- in balk, inside any of the spaces in back of the balklines on a billiard table.
- (intr usually foll by at) to stop short, esp suddenly or unexpectedly; jibthe horse balked at the jump
- (intr foll by at) to turn away abruptly; recoilhe balked at the idea of murder
- (tr) to thwart, check, disappoint, or foilhe was balked in his plans
- (tr) to avoid deliberatelyhe balked the question
- (tr) to miss unintentionally
- a roughly squared heavy timber beam
- a timber tie beam of a roof
- an unploughed ridge to prevent soil erosion or mark a division on common land
- an obstacle; hindrance; disappointment
- baseball an illegal motion by a pitcher towards the plate or towards the base when there are runners on base, esp without delivering the ball
- Also (US): balk billiards
- the space, usually 29 inches deep, between the baulk line and the bottom cushion
- (in baulk-line games) one of the spaces between the cushions and the baulk lines
- in baulkinside one of these spaces
- archaeol a strip of earth left between excavation trenches for the study of the complete stratigraphy of a site
- croquet either of two lines (A baulk and B baulk) at diagonally opposite ends of the court, from which the ball is struck into play
- a variant spelling of balk
Old English balca “ridge, bank,” from or influenced by Old Norse balkr “ridge of land,” especially between two plowed furrows, both from Proto-Germanic *balkan-, *belkan- (cf. Old Saxon balko, Danish bjelke, Old Frisian balka, Old High German balcho, German Balken “beam, rafter”), from PIE *bhelg- “beam, plank” (cf. Latin fulcire “to prop up, support,” fulcrum “bedpost;” Lithuanian balziena “cross-bar;” and possibly Greek phalanx “trunk, log, line of battle”). Modern senses are figurative, representing the balk as a hindrance or obstruction (see balk (v.)). Baseball sense is first attested 1845.
alternative spelling of balk, especially in billiards, in reference to a bad shot.
late 14c., “to leave an unplowed ridge when plowing,” from balk (n.). Extended meaning “to omit, intentionally neglect” is mid-15c. Most modern senses are figurative, from the notion of a balk in the fields as a hindrance or obstruction: sense of “stop short” (as a horse confronted with an obstacle) is late 15c.; that of “to refuse” is 1580s. Related: Balked; balking.