to stop short and refuse to proceed : to refuse abruptly —used with at : to commit a balk in sports
I thought this was a five cent word, but when I used it in my 250-word blogfest post a number of people said that it didn't fit. Made them stumble. So maybe it's a ten cent word? I don't know, now. It's not a common word, I'll admit, but I didn't think it was that strange or formal.
More specific than:
Stop, resist or refuse. IMO, this word implies to a physical refusal and physical resistance: horses balk. When I try to put my cat in his carrier to go to the vet, he balks. I always see feet firmly planted and back arched away to shift the center of gravity, when I hear the word balk.
Refuse, in the sense used when referring to animals is close -- the horse refused the bit. Maybe because animals can only act. There are several words such as foil, thwart, and baffle which involve failure, but they all strike me as being primarily mental or psychological in their action. Baffle especially -- wouldn't think of being physically baffled by something. Unless it's a baffle, which can be any number of regulatory devices.
Balking can involve struggling, fighting, twisting or thrashing, but all those words have multiple functions and aren't synonyms. Actually, I've been having trouble thinking of synonyms that encompass the brick-like (but with claws) resistance you get from a cat who doesn't want to go to the vet.
What comes to your mind?