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A man photographing himself in a mirror using a camera flash, creating a bright flash of light
  • IPA(key): /flæʃ/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æʃ

Etymology 1[edit]

In some senses, from Middle English flasshen, a variant of flasken, flaskien (to sprinkle, splash), which was likely of imitative origin; in other senses probably of North Germanic origin akin to Swedish dialectal flasa (to burn brightly, blaze), related to flare.


flash (third-person singular simple present flashes, present participle flashing, simple past and past participle flashed)

  1. To briefly illuminate a scene.
    He flashed the light at the water, trying to see what made the noise.
  2. To blink; to shine or illuminate intermittently.
    The light flashed on and off.
    • 1907, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter V, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326:
      Breezes blowing from beds of iris quickened her breath with their perfume; she saw the tufted lilacs sway in the wind, and the streamers of mauve-tinted wistaria swinging, all a-glisten with golden bees; she saw a crimson cardinal winging through the foliage, and amorous tanagers flashing like scarlet flames athwart the pines.
  3. To be visible briefly.
    The scenery flashed by quickly.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter VIII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 4293071, page 52:
      Here, in the transept and choir, where the service was being held, one was conscious every moment of an increasing brightness; colours glowing vividly beneath the circular chandeliers, and the rows of small lights on the choristers' desks flashed and sparkled in front of the boys' faces, deep linen collars, and red neckbands.
  4. To make visible briefly.
    A number will be flashed on the screen.
    The special agents flashed their badges as they entered the building.
    She flashed me a smile from the car window.
  5. (transitive, intransitive, informal) To briefly, and in most cases inadvertently, expose one's naked body or underwear, or part of it, in public. (Contrast streak.)
    Her skirt was so short that she flashed her underpants as she was getting out of her car.
  6. (transitive, informal) To show or expose an "inappropriate" part of the body to someone for humorous reasons or as an act of contempt.
  7. (figuratively) To break forth like a sudden flood of light; to show a momentary brilliance.
    • 1845, Thomas [Noon] Talfourd, Report of the Proceedings Connected with the Grant Soirée of the Manchester Athenæum, Held on Thursday, October 23rd, 1845. From the Manchester Guardian of Saturday, October 25th, 1845. Printed for the Directors, Manchester: Cave and Sever, Printers, 18, St. Ann's Street, OCLC 263688495, page 16:
      For although party's worn-out moulds have been shivered, and names which have flashed and thundered as the watchwords of unnumbered struggles for power are now fast waning into history, it is too much to hope, perhaps to desire, until the education of mankind shall more nearly approach its completion, that strong differences of opinion and feeling should cease to agitate the scenes on which freemen are called to discharge political duties.
    • 1851, Alfred Tennyson, “The Princess: A Medley”, in Poems by Alfred Tennyson. In Two Volumes, volume II, new edition, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, page 163:
      But while he jested thus, / A thought flashed through me, which I clothed in act. / Remembering how we three presented Maid, / Or Nymph, or Goddess, at high tide of feast, / In masque or pageant at my father's court.
    • 1856, Matthew Arnold, “Preface”, in Poems, new and complete edition, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor and Fields, OCLC 2859714, page 20:
      The Isabella [Isabella, or the Pot of Basil], then, is a perfect treasure-house of graceful and felicitous words and images: almost in every stanza there occurs one of those vivid and picturesque turns of expression, by which the object is made to flash upon the eye of the mind, and which thrill the reader with a sudden delight.
  8. To flaunt; to display in a showy manner.
    He flashed a wad of hundred-dollar bills.
  9. To communicate quickly.
    The news services flashed the news about the end of the war to all corners of the globe.
    to flash a message along the telephone wires;  to flash conviction on the mind
  10. To move, or cause to move, suddenly.
    Flash forward to the present day.
    • 2011 January 11, Jonathan Stevenson, “West Ham 2 – 1 Birmingham”, in BBC Sport[1], archived from the original on 18 March 2016:
      But they survived some real pressure as David Murphy flashed a header inches wide of Rob Green's right-hand post [].
  11. (transitive) To telephone a person, only allowing the phone to ring once, in order to request a call back.
    Susan flashed Jessica, and then Jessica called her back, because Susan didn't have enough credit on her phone to make the call.
  12. (intransitive, of liquid) To evaporate suddenly. (See flash evaporation.)
  13. (transitive, climbing) To climb (a route) successfully on the first attempt.
  14. (computing) To write to the memory of an updatable component such as a BIOS chip or games cartridge.
  15. (glassmaking) To cover with a thin layer, as objects of glass with glass of a different colour.
  16. (juggling) To perform a flash.
  17. (metallurgy) To release the pressure from a pressurized vessel.
  18. (transitive, obsolete) To trick up in a showy manner.
  19. (transitive, obsolete) To strike and throw up large bodies of water from the surface; to splash.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. Disposed into Twelue Books, Fashioning XII. Morall Vertues, London: Printed for W[illiam] Ponsonbie, OCLC 18024649, book II, canto VI, stanza XLII; republished as The Faerie Queene. By Edmund Spenser. With an Exact Collation of the Two Original Editions, Published by Himself at London in Quarto; the Former Containing the First Three Books Printed in 1590, and the Latter the Six Books in 1596. To which are Now Added, a New Life of the Author, and also a Glossary. Adorn'd with Thirty-two Copper-Plates, from the Original Drawings of the late W. Kent, Esq.; Architect and Principal Painter to His Majesty, volume I, London: Printed for J. Brindley, in New Bond-Street, and S. Wright, Clerk of His Majesty's Works, at Hampton-Court, 1751, OCLC 642577152, page 316:
      The varlet ſaw, when to the flood he came, / How without ſtop or ſtay he fiercely lept, / And deep himſelfe beducked in the ſame, / That in the lake his loftie creſt was ſteept, / Ne of his ſafetie ſeemed care he kept, / But with his raging armes he rudely flaſhd / The waves about, and all his armour ſwept, / That all the bloud and filth away was waſht, / Yet ſtill he bet the water, and the billows daſht.
  • (to briefly illuminate): glint
  • (telephoning): beep
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flash (plural flashes)

  1. A sudden, short, temporary burst of light.
  2. A very short amount of time.
    • 1680, Francis Bacon, “Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates”, in The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, of Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, Viscount St Alban. With a Table of the Colours of Good & Evil. Whereunto is Added The Wisdom of the Antients. Enlarged by the Honourable Author Himself; and Now More Exactly Published, London: Printed by M[ary] Clark, for Samuel Mearne, in Little Britain, John Martyn, in St. Pauls Church-yard, and Henry Herringman, in the New Exchange, OCLC 863522037, pages 111–112:
      [F]or Empire and Greatneſs it importeth moſt, that a Nation do profeſs Arms as their principal Honour, Study and Occupation: [] The Fabrick of the State of Sparta was wholly (though not wiſely) framed and compoſed to that Scope and End. The Perſians and Macedonians had it for a flaſh. The Galls, Germans, Goths, Saxons, Normans, and others had it for a time.
    • 1876, Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1st American edition, Hartford, Conn.; Chicago, Ill.; Cincinnati, Oh.: The American Publishing Company; San Francisco, Calif.: A. Roman & Co., OCLC 960100195, page 164:
      Quick—something must be done! done in a flash, too! But the very imminence of the emergency paralyzed his invention.
  3. (colloquial, US) A flashlight; an electric torch.
  4. (figuratively) A sudden and brilliant burst, as of genius or wit.
  5. Material left around the edge of a moulded part at the parting line of the mould.
  6. (Britain, Cockney) The strips of bright cloth or buttons worn around the collars of market traders.
  7. (juggling) A pattern where each prop is thrown and caught only once.
  8. (linguistics) A language, created by a minority to maintain cultural identity, that cannot be understood by the ruling class (for example, Ebonics).
  9. (photography) Clipping of camera flash (a device used to produce a flash of artificial light to help illuminate a scene).
  10. (archaic) A preparation of capsicum, burnt sugar, etc., for colouring liquor to make it look stronger.
  11. (military) A form of military insignia.
    I just got my first commando flash.
  • (very short amount of time): aeon
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.
See also[edit]


flash (comparative more flash, superlative most flash)

  1. (Britain and New Zealand, slang) Expensive-looking and demanding attention; stylish; showy.
    • 1892, Banjo Paterson, The Man from Ironbark
      The barber man was small and flash, as barbers mostly are,
      He wore a strike-your-fancy sash, he smoked a huge cigar;
  2. (Britain, of a person) Having plenty of ready money.
  3. (Britain, of a person) Liable to show off expensive possessions or money.
  4. (US, slang) Occurring very rapidly, almost instantaneously.


Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English flasche, flaske; compare Old French flache, French flaque, which is of Germanic origin, akin to Middle Dutch vlacke (an estuary, flats with stagnant pools).


flash (plural flashes)

  1. A pool.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Halliwell to this entry?)
  2. (engineering) A reservoir and sluiceway beside a navigable stream, just above a shoal, so that the stream may pour in water as boats pass, and thus bear them over the shoal.
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Further reading[edit]




Borrowed from English flash.



flash m (plural flashs)

  1. flash (burst of light)
  2. (photography) flash
  3. newsflash
  4. (juggling) flash

Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]



flash m (plural flashes)

  1. (photography) flash