from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To stop short and refuse to go on: The horse balked at the jump.
  • intransitive v. To refuse obstinately or abruptly: She balked at the very idea of compromise.
  • intransitive v. Sports To make an incomplete or misleading motion.
  • intransitive v. Baseball To make an illegal motion before pitching, allowing one or more base runners to advance one base.
  • transitive v. To check or thwart by or as if by an obstacle.
  • transitive v. Archaic To let go by; miss.
  • n. A hindrance, check, or defeat.
  • n. Sports An incomplete or misleading motion, especially an illegal move made by a baseball pitcher.
  • n. Games One of the spaces between the cushion and the balk line on a billiard table.
  • n. An unplowed strip of land.
  • n. A ridge between furrows.
  • n. A wooden beam or rafter.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. ridge, an unplowed strip of land.
  • n. beam, crossbeam.
  • n. hindrance.
  • n. blunder.
  • n. deceptive motion; feint
  • v. to pass over or by.
  • v. to stop, check, block.
  • v. to stop short and refuse to go on.
  • v. to refuse suddenly.
  • v. To indicate to fishermen, by shouts or signals from shore, the direction taken by the shoals of herring.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A ridge of land left unplowed between furrows, or at the end of a field; a piece missed by the plow slipping aside.
  • n. A great beam, rafter, or timber; esp., the tie-beam of a house. The loft above was called “the balks.”
  • n. One of the beams connecting the successive supports of a trestle bridge or bateau bridge.
  • n. A hindrance or disappointment; a check.
  • n. A sudden and obstinate stop; a failure.
  • n. A deceptive gesture of the pitcher, as if to deliver the ball. It is illegal and is penalized by allowing the runners on base to advance one base.
  • intransitive v. To engage in contradiction; to be in opposition.
  • intransitive v. To stop abruptly and stand still obstinately; to jib; to stop short; to swerve.
  • intransitive v. to commit a balk{6}; -- of a pitcher.
  • intransitive v. To indicate to fishermen, by shouts or signals from shore, the direction taken by the shoals of herring.
  • transitive v. To leave or make balks in.
  • transitive v. To leave heaped up; to heap up in piles.
  • transitive v. To omit, miss, or overlook by chance.
  • transitive v. To miss intentionally; to avoid; to shun; to refuse; to let go by; to shirk.
  • transitive v. To disappoint; to frustrate; to foil; to baffle; to thwart.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To make a balk or ridge in plowing; make a ridge in by leaving a strip unplowed.
  • Hence To leave untouched generally; omit; pass over; neglect; shun.
  • To place a balk in the way of; hence, to hinder; thwart; frustrate; disappoint.
  • To miss by error or inadvertence.
  • To heap up so as to form a balk or ridge.
  • [Some editors read bak'd in this passage.] Synonyms
  • To stop short in one's course, as at a balk or obstacle: as, the horse balked; he balked in his speech. Spenser.
  • To quibble; bandy words.
  • To signify to fishing-boats the direction taken by the shoals of herrings or pilchards, as seen from heights overlooking the sea: done at first by bawling or shouting, subsequently by signals.
  • n. A ridge; especially, a ridge left unplowed in the body of a field, or between fields; an uncultivated strip of land serving as a boundary, often between pieces of ground held by different tenants.
  • n. A piece missed in plowing.
  • n. An omission; an exception.
  • n. A blunder; a failure or miscarriage: as, to make a balk; you have made a bad balk of it.
  • n. In base-ball, a motion made by the pitcher as if to pitch the ball, but without actually doing so.
  • n. A barrier in one's way; an obstacle or stumbling-block.
  • n. A check or defeat; a disappointment.
  • n. In coal-mining, a more or less sudden thinning out, for a certain distance, of a bed of coal; a nip or want.
  • n. A beam or piece of timber of considerable length and thickness.
  • n. Milit., one of the beams connecting the successive supports of a trestle-bridge or bateau-bridge.
  • n. In carpentry, a squared timber, long or short; a large timber in a frame, floor, etc.; a square log.
  • n. The beam of a balance.
  • n. In billiards, the space between the cushion of the table and the balkline. A ball inside this space is said to be in balk.
  • n. A long wooden or iron table on which paper is laid in the press-room of a printing-office.
  • n. A set of stout stakes surrounded by netting or wickerwork for catching fish.
  • n. The stout rope at the top of fishing-nets by which they are fastened one to another in a fleet.
  • n.
  • n. In wool-manuf., a fullness and suppleness of texture.
  • n. The failure of a jumper or vaulter to jump after taking his run. Three balks usually count as a trial-jump.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an illegal pitching motion while runners are on base
  • v. refuse to comply
  • n. one of several parallel sloping beams that support a roof
  • n. the area on a billiard table behind the balkline
  • n. something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English balken, to plow up in ridges, from balk, ridge, from Old English balca and from Old Norse balkr, beam.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English balke, Old English balca, either from or influenced by Old Norse bálkr ("partition, ridge of land"), from Proto-Germanic *balkô. Cognate with German Balken ("balk"), Italian balcone ("balcony").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Probably from Dutch balken ("to bray, bawl").



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  • (noun) - A rafter in a kitchen or outhouse; a rack fixed to a rafter or balk, used in old farmhouses which holds the flitches of bacon used by the family. --William Toone's Etymological Dictionary of Obsolete Words, 1832

    January 26, 2018

  • Refuse abruptly

    July 8, 2014

  • I didn't know the "unplowed strip of land" definition of this until now:

    "Beyond an orchard, a raised balk ran along the edge of a common field leading down to the river, angled with cultivated strips."

    Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, p 118 of the Berkley paperback edition

    February 26, 2012