v. balked, balk·ing, balks
1. To stop short and refuse to go on: The horse balked at the jump.
2. To refuse obstinately or abruptly: She balked at the very idea of compromise.
a. Sports To make an incomplete or misleading motion.
b. Baseball To make an illegal motion before pitching, allowing one or more base runners to advance one base.
1. To check or thwart by or as if by an obstacle.
2. Archaic To let go by; miss.
1. A hindrance, check, or defeat.
2. Sports An incomplete or misleading motion, especially an illegal move made by a baseball pitcher.
3. Games One of the spaces between the cushion and the balk line on a billiard table.
a. An unplowed strip of land.
b. A ridge between furrows.
5. A wooden beam or rafter.
[Middle English balken, to plow up in ridges, from balk, ridge, from Old English balca and from Old Norse balkr, beam.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.