View synonyms for balk


or baulk

[ bawk ]

verb (used without object)

  1. 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.

  2. (of a horse, mule, etc.) to stop short and stubbornly refuse to go on.
  3. Baseball. to commit a balk.

verb (used with object)

  1. to place an obstacle in the way of; hinder; thwart:

    a sudden reversal that balked her hopes.

    Synonyms: prevent, impede, obstruct, retard, check

  2. Archaic. to let slip; fail to use:

    to balk an opportunity.


  1. a check or hindrance; defeat; disappointment.
  2. a strip of land left unplowed.
  3. a crossbeam in the roof of a house that unites and supports the rafters; tie beam.
  4. any heavy timber used for building purposes.
  5. 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.
  6. Billiards. any of the eight panels or compartments lying between the cushions of the table and the balklines.
  7. Obsolete. a miss, slip, or failure:

    to make a balk.


/ bɔːk; bɔːlk /


  1. intrusually foll byat to stop short, esp suddenly or unexpectedly; jib

    the horse balked at the jump

  2. intrfoll byat to turn away abruptly; recoil

    he balked at the idea of murder

  3. tr to thwart, check, disappoint, or foil

    he was balked in his plans

  4. tr to avoid deliberately

    he balked the question

  5. tr to miss unintentionally


  1. a roughly squared heavy timber beam
  2. a timber tie beam of a roof
  3. an unploughed ridge to prevent soil erosion or mark a division on common land
  4. an obstacle; hindrance; disappointment
  5. 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

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Derived Forms

  • ˈbalker, noun

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Other Words From

  • balker noun
  • balking·ly adverb
  • un·balked adjective
  • un·balking adjective
  • un·balking·ly adverb

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Word History and Origins

Origin of balk1

First recorded before 900; Middle English; Old English balca “covering, beam, ridge”; cognate with Old Norse bǫlkr “bar, partition,” Dutch balk, Old Saxon balko, German Balken, Old Norse bjalki “beam,” Old English bolca “plank”; perhaps akin to Latin sufflāmen, Slovenian blazína, Lithuanian balžíenas “beam.” See balcony

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Word History and Origins

Origin of balk1

Old English balca ; related to Old Norse bálkr partition, Old High German balco beam

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. in balk, inside any of the spaces in back of the balklines on a billiard table.

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Example Sentences

Sidebar: the Electoral College is the balk rule of government.

“Megalodon fossils appear in shallower marine sediments,” Balk said.

Although my temptation is to balk like a sitcom father—“Whaddya mean these guys are famous for Tweeting?!”

Producers are not likely to want to hire another actor who may balk at the pressure of filming the major project.

Unlike entitlement cuts, sequester cuts must be renewed every year by Congress, and sooner or later, Congress will likely balk.

In the first place the result of my pilgrimage was very doubtful, and in the second you would have done all you could to balk me.

But balk her in a whim, and she would pour forth the eloquence of a fish-wife or a lady of easy virtue in a pot-house quarrel.

Boggs looked as though he were going to balk flat, until he saw Hal turn as though to summon a soldier.

But there was no telling at what moment these fanatic Mexicans would discover what was going on, and balk it all.

I started to call her something or other a hundred times, I guess, and then I'd balk.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.