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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.
Origin of flashback
1910-15; 1965-70 for def 3; noun use of verb phrase flash back Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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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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