Definition of balk in US English:


(British baulk)


[no object]
  • 1Hesitate or be unwilling to accept an idea or undertaking.

    ‘any gardener will at first balk at enclosing the garden’
    • ‘Historically, I have always baulked at the concept of fancy dress, on the grounds that I have a natural aversion to making myself look ridiculous.’
    • ‘Hopes of a major expansion were raised earlier this year, but were dashed after the Government baulked at handing over the £42 million needed to fund the project.’
    • ‘Of course, some might balk at the morality of keeping tabs on anyone 24 / 7, but this tricky question would at least leave one job for the ethics commissioner to handle.’
    • ‘They may balk at the idea of a top boss getting millions while a company's share price is falling.’
    • ‘He quickly baulked at the cost to the exchequer.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She never wavered in this view and never baulked at the fact that to claim this prize she would have to rid herself of her cousin Elizabeth.’
    • ‘For a few days, the big banks responsible for allocating the world's capital baulked at doing business with each other, fearful that their counterparts' credit would go bad.’
    • ‘Parents concerned about allergies may balk at the idea of keeping pets around children.’
    • ‘However, the government has baulked at the estimated £2.4 billion cost of the tax breaks and is scrapping them this year.’
    • ‘Hospitals closer to his home baulked at admitting him, he said.’
    • ‘But some councillors privately have baulked at the new boards, which they see as a ‘hoop-jumping exercise’ designed to get the Government off the council's back.’
    • ‘In the past three years, staff turnover has been a dramatic 30% - a level that some commercial companies might balk at - and 60 new professors have been appointed.’
    • ‘Airlines have already begun to balk at paying commissions of 7% to 10% of the ticket price to travel agents.’
    • ‘An original plan to make sure all taxis were painted black-and-yellow was dumped after cabbies baulked at the cost.’
    • ‘He'll ask his students to come up with 40 ideas in an hour and when they balk at this, he tells them that they won't know what they can do until they're put under this kind of pressure.’
    • ‘However, the production company has baulked at a 15,000 fee for the use of an abandoned crofthouse.’
    • ‘They baulked at investing 400,000 into an event which attracted some 50 million in revenue to the city.’
    • ‘At first she baulked at the idea, saying she no longer performed those pieces.’
    • ‘It is only the poor players who might balk at the added workload, and the newly-formed Scottish Professional Players' Association will want to negotiate a maximum number of matches per season for their members as a matter of urgency.’
    eschew, resist, refuse to, be unwilling to, draw the line at, be reluctant to, draw back from, flinch from, shrink from, shy from, recoil from, quail at, demur from, hesitate over, scruple to, take exception to, not like to, hate to, jib at
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    1. 1.1with object Thwart or hinder (a plan or person)
      ‘the utmost of his influence will be invoked to balk the law’
      • ‘We tried a low downforce aero package, but I was baulked by traffic and so we were not able to see the difference.’
      • ‘The black and amber brigade again faced into the elements on Friday but on this occasion their opponents were not to be balked.’
      • ‘Zabel was balked, and instead the rider who pushed McEwen all the way to the line, and even bumped his shoulder at 40 mph in the final metres, was his fellow Australian Baden Cooke.’
      • ‘A fellow driver chose to have words with him and criticised him for weaving about on the track in order to balk those who try to overtake.’
      • ‘The losers launched one last attack but who was there to balk them, none other than Johnny Nevin, who ventured from his own left wing to cover the right wing raid.’
      • ‘Despite being slightly baulked by Thinus Delport it didn't matter as Hickie chased on and got there first to score.’
      • ‘They may feel that they are balked in making their way through life, that authority figures are preventing them from expressing themselves, etc.’
      • ‘Having been baulked on his second run, Campbell had a re-run, in which he made full use of the clear track to break the 94s barrier and secure victory.’
      • ‘Superior claims may baulk inferior ones, but the liquidator's duty is to realise the assets of all in accordance with their rights.’
      • ‘Indeed they are struggling to get into the team, baulked by players who last season didn't get games when Veron and Beckham were fit.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I got baulked by slower cars a couple of times and Jonny caught me.’
      • ‘Massa was infuriated after Panis had driven so tardily on his slowing-down lap that he baulked the Brazilian, costing him a likely ninth place on the grid.’
      • ‘Air Force Honcho enjoyed plenty of luck in running last week after being baulked early on and may not enjoy a trouble free passage either this time.’
      • ‘Or again has it been rushed in its development and is baulked up with poor coding?’
      • ‘Fastest junior was Smith of Cleveleys RC who clocked 1-12-10, despite being baulked by a tractor over the fast finish.’
      impede, obstruct, thwart, hinder, prevent, check, stop, curb, halt, bar, block, forestall, frustrate, stall, baffle, foil, defeat, beat, counteract, head off
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    2. 1.2balk someone ofwith object Prevent a person or animal from having (something)
      ‘the lions, fearing to be balked of their prey’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Catiline was baulked of their expected co-operation, and the communication with the Allobroges for the moment was interrupted.’
      • ‘This time Bahirawa was baulked of his victim.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But Young Ox was not to be balked of his prey.’
    3. 1.3 (of a horse) refuse to go on.
      • ‘He nudged Cochise towards the sound but the pinto out and out balked and refused to take another step.’
      • ‘There was a boggy place in the road but we could go through it as long as neither horse in the team balked.’
      • ‘Suddenly the weather felt chilled and again the horses balked.’
      • ‘Maddock's horse balked and reared as a mercenary snatched at its reins.’
      • ‘The already skittish horse balked at the sudden change in direction, but Katherine fought with it impatiently.’
    4. 1.4archaic with object Miss or refuse (a chance or invitation).
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He balked the invitation and clambered in with me.’
      • ‘Do not balk the opportunity to see the church on the Green Hill.’
  • 2Baseball
    (of a pitcher) make an illegal motion, penalized by an advance of the base runners.

    ‘the rookie balked and permitted Robinson to score’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘To top it all of, he balked in a run with the bases loaded, capping a three-run rally.’


  • 1Baseball
    An illegal motion made by a pitcher that may deceive a base runner.

    • ‘It is a balk, and the runner advances to second base.’
    • ‘And then in the sixth it was a balk again, allowing Georgia Tech to take the lead.’
    • ‘Because of the balk, both runners advanced one base, giving the Twins a 5-4 victory.’
    • ‘When there's a runner on first base and the pitcher makes a motion to throw to that base from the rubber, he's charged with a balk if he does not complete his throw.’
    • ‘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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It was built in the early 1990´s and consists of various obstacles made of tires filled with concrete, concrete panels and wooden balks.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Most of these wells are propped up with wooden balks.’
    joist, purlin, girder, spar, support, strut, stay, brace, scantling, batten, transom, lintel, stringer, baulk, board, timber, plank, lath, rafter
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  • 3Any area on a pool or billiard table in which play is restricted in some way.

    • ‘He broke, Burnett left the white pinned awkwardly against the balk cushion - and from there, McCulloch knocked in a long red.’
    • ‘Milner potted green to level the frame scores but left a sitting brown after attempting an ambitious pot along the baulk cushion.’
    • ‘Needing the colours to take the frame he was about to take a tough shot on green near the baulk cushion when two spectators left the arena.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 4A ridge left unplowed between furrows.

    • ‘Hope-Taylor himself describes this on p31 of his report, aiming for ‘total initial exposure of large areas with as few dividing balks [sic] of ploughsoil as possible’.’
    • ‘Some are separated by grass baulks, others by stone walls.’
    • ‘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’, later ‘land left unplowed by mistake’, hence ‘blunder, omission’, giving rise to the verb use ‘miss (a chance)’. A late Middle English sense ‘obstacle’ gave rise to the verb senses ‘hesitate’ and ‘hinder’.