Word of the DayWednesday, June 19, 2013
\balk\ , verb;
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.
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.
...and now I was apprenticed to the best editor on an intellectual fashion magazine, and what did I do but balk and balk like a dull cart horse?
-- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, 1963
At the very moment when she would have seized her prey, the hare moved and darted along the balk between the winter rye and the stubble.
-- Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, 1869
Balk comes from the Old Norse balkr meaning "ridge of land." The modern figurative senses of this term relate to obstructions in passage resulting from unplowed land.
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