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.
before 900;Middle English;Old Englishbalca covering, beam, ridge; cognate with Old Norsebǫlkr bar, partition, Dutchbalk,Old Saxonbalko,GermanBalken,Old Norsebjalki beam, Old Englishbolca plank; perhaps akin to Latinsufflāmen,Sloveneblazína,Lithuanianbalžíenas beam. See balcony
O.E. balca "ridge, bank," from or influenced by O.N. balkr "ridge of land," especially between two plowed furrows, both from P.Gmc. *balkan-, *belkan- (cf. O.S. balko, Dan. bjelke, O.Fris. balka, O.H.G. balcho, Ger. Balken "beam, rafter"), from PIE *bhelg- "beam, plank" (cf. L. fulcire "to prop up, support," fulcrum "bedpost;" Lith. balziena "cross-bar;" and possibly Gk. phalanx "trunk, log, line of battle"). Modern senses are figurative, either representing the balk as a hindrance or obstruction (e.g., of horses, "to stop short before an obstacle," recorded from late 15c.), or from the verb sense of "to miss or omit intentionally" (attested by late 15c.) as a lazy or incompetent plowman would in making balks. Baseball sense is first attested 1845. Related: Balky (1847).