Etymology
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balk (n.)

also baulk, Middle English balke, from Old English balca "ridge, bank," from or influenced by Old Norse balkr "ridge of land," especially between two plowed furrows, both from Proto-Germanic *balkon- (source also of Old Saxon balko, Danish bjelke, Old Frisian balka, Old High German balcho, German Balken "beam, rafter"), from PIE root *bhelg- "beam, plank" (source also of Latin fulcire "to prop up, support," fulcrum "bedpost;" Lithuanian balžiena "cross-bar;" and possibly Greek phalanx "trunk, log, line of battle"). Italian balco "a beam" is from Germanic (see balcony).

In old use especially "an unplowed strip in a field, often along and marking a boundary." The modern senses are figurative, representing the balk as a hindrance or obstruction (see balk (v.)), or else the notion of "a piece missed in plowing" as "a blunder, a failure." Hence, in baseball, "a motion made by the pitcher as if to deliver the ball, but without doing so," attested from 1845, probably from the plowing sense.

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balk (v.)

late 14c., "to leave an unplowed ridge when plowing," from balk (n.). The extended meaning "omit, intentionally neglect" is from mid-15c. Most modern senses are figurative, from the notion of a balk in the fields as a hindrance or obstruction: the sense of "stop short in one's course" (as a horse confronted with an obstacle) is late 15c.; that of "to refuse" is 1580s. For baseball sense, see the noun. Related: Balked; balking.

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balky (adj.)

"apt to stop abruptly and refuse to move," 1847, from balk (n.) + -y (2). Related: Balkily; balkiness.

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baulk 

alternative spelling of balk, especially in billiards, in reference to a bad shot.

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fulcrum (n.)

in mechanics, "a prop, a support" (on which a lever turns), 1670s, from Latin fulcrum "bedpost, foot of a couch," from fulcire "to prop up, support" (see balk (n.)).

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bulkhead (n.)

"upright partition in the interior of a ship," late 15c., with head (n.); the first element perhaps from bulk "framework projecting in the front of a shop" (1580s), which is perhaps from Old Norse bolkr "a beam, a rafter; a partition" (see balk (n.)).

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bilk (v.)

1650s, from or along with the noun (1630s), first used as a cribbage term; as a verb, "to spoil (someone's) score." Of obscure origin, it was believed in 17c. to be "a word signifying nothing;" some sources suggest it is a thinned form of balk "to hinder." The meaning "to defraud" is recorded from 1670s. Related: Bilked; bilking.

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balcony (n.)

1610s, "platform projecting from a wall of a building surrounded by a wall or railing," from Italian balcone, from balco "scaffold," which is from a Germanic source (perhaps Langobardic *balko- "beam"), from Proto-Germanic *balkon- (see balk (n.)). With Italian augmentative suffix -one. From 1718 as "gallery in a theater." Until c. 1825, regularly accented on the second syllable. Related: Balconied.

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debauch (v.)

1590s, "to entice, seduce, lead astray" (from allegiance, family, etc.), from French débaucher "entice from work or duty," from Old French desbaucher "to lead astray," a word of uncertain origin.

Supposedly it is literally "to trim (wood) to make a beam" (from bauch "beam," from Frankish balk or some other Germanic source akin to English balk (n.)). The notion of "shaving" something away, perhaps, but the root is also said to be a word meaning "workshop," which gets toward the notion of "to lure someone off the job;" either way the sense evolution is unclear.

The more specific meaning "seduce from virtue or morality, corrupt the morals or principles of" is from c. 1600, especially "to corrupt with lewdness, seduce sexually," usually in reference to women. Intransitive sense "indulge in excess in sensual enjoyment" is from 1640s. As a noun, "a bout of excessive sensual pleasure," c. 1600.

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phalanx (n.)

1550s, "line of battle in close ranks," from Latin phalanx "compact body of heavily armed men in battle array," or directly from Greek phalanx (genitive phalangos) "line of battle, battle array," also "finger or toe bone," originally "round piece of wood, trunk, log," a word of unknown origin. Perhaps from PIE root *bhelg- "plank, beam" (source of Old English balca "balk;" see balk (n.)).

In anatomy, originally the whole row of finger joints, which fit together like infantry in close order. Figurative sense of "number of persons banded together in a common cause" is attested from 1600 (compare Spanish Falangist, member of a fascist organization founded in 1933).

The celebrated Macedonian phalanx was normally drawn up sixteen ranks deep, the men being clad in armor, bearing shields, and armed with swords and with spears from 21 to 24 feet long. In array the shields formed a continuous bulwark, and the ranks were placed at such intervals that five spears which were borne pointed forward and upward protected every man in the front rank. The phalanx on smooth ground, and with its flanks and rear adequately protected, was practically invincible; but it was cumbrous and slow in movement, and if once broken could only with great difficulty be reformed. [Century Dictionary]
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