Definition of balk in English:

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Pronunciation: /bɔːlk/
Pronunciation: /bɔːk/
(chiefly British also baulk)


[no object]
1Hesitate or be unwilling to accept an idea or undertaking: he balked at such a drastic solution
More example sentences
  • So when the builders told her she was dreaming, baulked at her unusual ideas and promptly doubled their cost, that was all the encouragement the business woman needed.
  • At first she baulked at the idea, saying she no longer performed those pieces.
  • They may balk at the idea of a top boss getting millions while a company's share price is falling.
eschew, resist, refuse to, be unwilling to, draw the line at, be reluctant to, draw back from, flinch from, shrink from, shy from, recoil from, quail at, demur from, hesitate over, scruple to, take exception to, not like to, hate to, jib at;
scorn, disdain
1.1 [with object] Thwart or hinder (a plan or person): he raised every objection he could to balk this plan
More example sentences
  • I got baulked by slower cars a couple of times and Jonny caught me.
  • We tried a low downforce aero package, but I was baulked by traffic and so we were not able to see the difference.
  • Micky Conlan would roll the ball in front, then run, pick it up, baulk an imaginary opponent, run close to the boundary, kick the goal then scuttle back, laughing.
impede, obstruct, thwart, hinder, prevent, check, stop, curb, halt, bar, block, forestall, frustrate, stall, baffle, foil, defeat, beat, counteract, head off
1.2 [with object] (balk someone of) Prevent a person or animal from having (something): a tiger balked of its prey
More example sentences
  • One woman was hitting a soldier on the head with her handbag, and I saw one of the soldiers, who was not to be baulked of his dance, pulled down onto the floor, as he held the tattooed wrist of the woman he still saw as his partner.
  • One of the scoundrels finding that he was baulked of his prey, threw a large stone at Patterson as he was sitting on the side of his bed, which he narrowly evaded by stooping down.
  • But Young Ox was not to be balked of his prey.
1.3 [with object] archaic Miss or refuse (a chance or invitation): it’s got to be done, so why balk it?
More example sentences
  • He balked the invitation and clambered in with me.
  • The case represented a first, hesitant step towards the harmonisation of two cardinally important rights, even though the Court balked the opportunity to give lengthy analysis to the extent of the two rights’ compatibility with one another.
  • Do not balk the opportunity to see the church on the Green Hill.
1.4(With reference to a horse) refuse or cause to refuse to go on: [no object]: he balked, both forefeet thrust stiffly in front of him [with object]: most of the horses were balked and refused
More example sentences
  • The already skittish horse balked at the sudden change in direction, but Katherine fought with it impatiently.
  • Suddenly the weather felt chilled and again the horses balked.
  • Maddock's horse balked and reared as a mercenary snatched at its reins.


1A roughly squared timber beam: a balk of timber
More example sentences
  • The new hall is concrete and stone and huge baulks of timber, throwing itself out to the world's best view through great sliding glass doors.
  • A family of Tamil shipwrights were adzing baulks of timber into banana-shaped fishing rafts.
  • Iron-hard baulks of it, along with a few copper rivets, washers and sheathing, is all that remains of the ship.
2The area on a billiard table between the balk line and the bottom cushion, within which in some circumstances a ball is protected from a direct stroke.
Example sentences
  • He then potted blue in the middle pocket but the cue ball rolled back off the baulk cushion into the opposite middle pocket for a five-point foul.
  • It could still have gone either way on the colours, but Doherty had his nose in front when the pink bounced off three cushions and rolled into a baulk pocket.
  • Milner potted green to level the frame scores but left a sitting brown after attempting an ambitious pot along the baulk cushion.
3 Baseball An unlawful action made by a pitcher that may deceive a base runner.
Example sentences
  • Because of the balk, both runners advanced one base, giving the Twins a 5-4 victory.
  • It is a balk, and the runner advances to second base.
  • Lumping the two together makes no more sense than lumping together balks and wild pitches.… The same holds for outfielders.
4A ridge left unploughed between furrows.
Example sentences
  • A method of setting out archaeological excavation trenches in a pattern of regular square or rectangular boxes with baulks between, pioneered by Sir Mortimer Wheeler at sites in India and southern Britain.
  • A survey carried out by the council says that much of the land has been mined below the legal limit, and there were no baulks of peat left to prevent the area from being completely drained.
  • The sides of these trenches had the advantage of preserving the stratigraphy, but the baulks inevitably obscured parts of many of the features.


Late Old English balc, from Old Norse bálkr 'partition'. The original use was 'unploughed ridge', later 'land left unploughed by mistake', hence 'blunder, omission', giving rise to the verb use 'miss (a chance)'. A late Middle English sense 'obstacle' gave rise to the verb senses 'hesitate' and 'hinder'.

  • baulk from Old English:

    The verb baulk (US variant balk) is used with a sense of ‘refusal’ in phrases such as baulk at an idea, or baulk at doing something. This notion developed, together with the verb senses ‘hesitate’ and ‘hinder’ in late Middle English, through a use of the noun as ‘obstacle’. The early spelling of the noun was balc, from an Old Norse word for ‘partition’. The first English usage was ‘unploughed ridge’, later ‘land left unploughed by mistake’, which was then extended to ‘blunder, omission’. Bollards (Middle English) originally short posts on a ship's deck or on a quayside, may be related.

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Line breaks: balk

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