Definition of balk in English:

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Pronunciation: /bôk/
(British also baulk)


[no object]
1Hesitate or be unwilling to accept an idea or undertaking: any gardener will at first balk at enclosing the garden
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.
be unwilling to (be), draw the line at, be reluctant to (be), hesitate over;
eschew, resist, refuse to (be), take exception to;
draw back from, flinch from, shrink from, recoil from, demur from, hate to (be)
1.1 [with object] Thwart or hinder (a plan or person): the utmost of his influence will be invoked to balk the law
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
1.2 [with object] (balk someone of) Prevent a person or animal from having (something): the lions, fearing to be balked of their 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(Of a horse) refuse to go on.
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.
1.4 [with object] archaic Miss or refuse (a chance or invitation).
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.
2 Baseball (Of a pitcher) make an illegal motion, penalized by an advance of the base runners: the rookie balked and permitted Robinson to score
More example sentences
  • To top it all of, he balked in a run with the bases loaded, capping a three-run rally.
  • He had poor control and even balked while trying to warm his hands with a runner on third.
  • Obviously, he was upset he balked the run in, but I think he lost his composure and I'm sure he'd say the same thing.


1 Baseball An illegal motion 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.
2A roughly squared timber beam.
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.
3Any area on a pool or billiard table in which play is restricted in some way.
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.
4A ridge left unplowed 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 'unplowed ridge', in late Middle English 'land left unplowed by mistake', hence 'blunder, omission' (giving rise to the verb sense '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.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: balk

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