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.
late 12c., "loss, lack; " c. 1200, "regret occasioned by loss or absence," from Old English miss "absence, loss," from source of missan "to miss" (see miss (v.)). Meaning "an act or fact of missing; a being without" is from late 15c.; meaning "a failure to hit or attain" is 1550s.
Phrase a miss is as good as a mile (1761) was originally an inch, in a miss, is as good as an ell (1610s; see ell). To give (something) a miss "to abstain from, avoid" is attested by 1919, perhaps from earlier use of the term in billiards, "to avoid hitting the object ball" (1807).
There are few of the niceties of the game that require more care than that of "giving a miss," and particularly when the player wishes to mask the ball. I recollect a game I played with Mr. Burke, of Cheltenham. He went off, and doubled, as was his custom, the red ball nearly over the baulk corner pocket. Not feeling disposed, against so skilful an antagonist, to run the risk of playing for a canon off his ball, I gave a miss, thinking I had masked the ball. His eye, keen and penetrating, discovered at a glance that I had just left him room to pass. He played at the red ball and holed his own ball off it by a fine cut, and scored forty points from the break. [Edward Russell Mardon, "Billiards," London, 1849]