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[bawk] /bɔk/
verb (used without object), verb (used with object), noun


or baulk

[bawk] /bɔk/
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.
Origin of balk
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, Slovene blazína, Lithuanian balžíenas beam. See balcony
Related forms
balker, noun
balkingly, adverb
unbalked, adjective
unbalking, adjective
unbalkingly, adverb
4. check, retard, obstruct, impede, prevent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for baulking
Historical Examples
  • We cannot steam any faster, and we are baulking the fire of our friends.

    The British Navy Book Cyril Field
  • Then Z. turned and made for home as fast as his baulking engine would allow.

    Great Britain at War Jeffery Farnol
  • But perhaps you have never filled out the last part—still back at that baulking place.

  • The secret he longed to learn, the seal and confirmation of his hard-won faith, or empty, baulking nothingness?

    Stella Fregelius H. Rider Haggard
  • This baulking of the sentiment of love, whipped up, if anything, the longing for justice in Mr. Ventnor.

    Five Tales John Galsworthy
  • On the whole, it is I who should be grateful to you for not baulking me in my scheme and for letting me have my own way.

    Mr. Marx's Secret E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • This is apparently intended as a piece of humour, in catching or baulking the audience.

  • Go to your work and be strong, halting not in your ways, baulking the end half-won for an instant dole of praise.

    A Song of the English Rudyard Kipling
  • One last word of advice: pause a second time, I entreat, before you think of baulking Dr. Nikola.'

    A Bid for Fortune Guy Boothby
  • Horses are taught the dangerous vice of baulking, or jibbing, as it is called in England, by improper management.

British Dictionary definitions for baulking


/bɔːk; bɔːlk/
(intransitive) usually foll by at. to stop short, esp suddenly or unexpectedly; jib: the horse balked at the jump
(intransitive) foll by at. to turn away abruptly; recoil: he balked at the idea of murder
(transitive) to thwart, check, disappoint, or foil: he was balked in his plans
(transitive) to avoid deliberately: he balked the question
(transitive) 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
See also baulk
Derived Forms
balker, baulker, noun
Word Origin
Old English balca; related to Old Norse bálkr partition, Old High German balco beam


/bɔːk; usually for sense 1 bɔːlk/
(billiards) Also (US) balk
  1. the space, usually 29 inches deep, between the baulk line and the bottom cushion
  2. (in baulk-line games) one of the spaces between the cushions and the baulk lines
  3. in baulk, inside 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
verb, noun
a variant spelling of balk
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for baulking



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.


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.


alternative spelling of balk, especially in billiards, in reference to a bad shot.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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