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[flash-bak] /ˈflæʃˌbæk/
a device in the narrative of a motion picture, novel, etc., by which an event or scene taking place before the present time in the narrative is inserted into the chronological structure of the work.
an event or scene so inserted.
Also called flashback hallucinosis. Psychiatry.
  1. the spontaneous recurrence of visual hallucinations or other effects of a drug, as LSD, long after the use of the drug has been discontinued.
  2. recurrent and abnormally vivid recollection of a traumatic experience, as a battle, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations.
1910-15; 1965-70 for def 3; noun use of verb phrase flash back Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for flashback
  • Most of these training sessions are viewed in flashback.
  • There was a long silence-an unwelcome flashback, perhaps.
  • The story, despite a confusing flashback structure, is coherent.
  • By now, mentioning that the episode opens with a flashback is simply redundant.
  • The range can experience a delayed ignition flashback fire in the upper oven, which poses a fire and burn hazard to consumers.
  • If a flashback occurs, immediately turn off the oxygen, then the acetylene and allow the torch unit to cool.
  • In a flashback, his bayonet sword is revealed to be named excalibur.
  • The flashback narration gives a sense of historical import and resonance.
British Dictionary definitions for flashback


a transition in a novel, film, etc, to an earlier scene or event
(intransitive, adverb) to return in a novel, film, etc, to a past event
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for flashback

1903, in reference to fires in engines or furnaces, from flash + back (adj.). Movie plot device sense is from 1916. The hallucinogenic drug sense is attested in psychological literature from 1970, which means probably hippies were using it a few years before.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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flashback in Medicine

flashback flash·back (flāsh'bāk')

  1. An unexpected recurrence of the effects of a hallucinogenic drug long after its original use.

  2. A recurring, intensely vivid mental image of a past traumatic experience.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for flashback


  1. A scene or passage in a novel, movie, etc, that depicts events earlier than those in the main time frame (1916+)
  2. A hallucination or sensation originally induced by LSD or other drugs but recurring after the drug experience has ended (1960s+ Narcotics)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Encyclopedia Article for flashback

in motion pictures and literature, narrative technique of interrupting the chronological sequence of events to interject events of earlier occurrence. The earlier events often take the form of reminiscence. The flashback technique is as old as Western literature. In the Odyssey, most of the adventures that befell Odysseus on his journey home from Troy are told in flashback by Odysseus when he is at the court of the Phaeacians.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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