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Balk, Baulk, and Bulk

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between balk, baulk, and bulk?

To Balk (most commonly seen as to balk at) means to be unwilling to or to take exception to. For example:
  • He balked at presenting his idea to the company.
Baulk is the British English version of balk.

Bulk means a large mass or quantity. It also means the greater part of something. For example:
  • He gets his bulk from eating chicken.
  • I made the bulk of the payment this afternoon.

To Balk At

The verb to balk (which is nearly always paired with the preposition at) means to be unwilling to or to take exception to.

Examples:
  • I don't ever balk at being considered a Motown person because Motown is the greatest musical event that ever happened in the history of music. (Smokey Robinson)
  • Presidents with strong nerves are decisive. They don't balk at unpopular decisions. They are willing to make people angry. (Fred Barnes)
Balk can also be used as a noun with the following meanings:
  • A beam of timber that has been roughly squared.
  • An unlawful action my a baseball pitcher to deceive a base runner.
  • An unploughed ridge between furrows.
  • An area on a billiard table.
  • A miss or a failure.

Baulk

Baulk is a British spelling of balk. Most Canadians prefer balk, and Australians prefer baulk.

Examples:
  • Anyone who lives outside of London would baulk at the cost of living. ()

Bulk

The noun bulk describes a large mass or the greater quantity of something. It can also be used as verb meaning to make something bigger. As a verb, it is usually paired with the preposition up.

Examples:
  • I approached the bulk of my schoolwork as a chore rather than an intellectual adventure. (Steven Chu)
  • The mind is like an iceberg. It floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water. (Sigmund Freud)
  • (Here, bulk is a noun.)
  • For the last 10 years, I have had to bulk up for roles. As I'm naturally skinny, I have eaten many chickens! (Hugh Jackman)
  • (Here, bulk is a verb.)
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