- the spontaneous recurrence of visual hallucinations or other effects of a drug, as LSD, long after the use of the drug has been discontinued.
- recurrent and abnormally vivid recollection of a traumatic experience, as a battle, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations.
Origin of flashback
Words nearby flashback
MORE ABOUT FLASHBACK
What does flashback mean?
A flashback is a technique in movies, novels, and other narratives in which the present story transitions into a scene from the past.
When used as a verb, the term is usually spelled as two words, as in My favorite part of the book is when it flashes back to their childhood. The opposite of a flashback is a flash-forward—when the narrative transitions into a scene from the future.
Flashback is also used in psychology to refer to recollections or hallucinations of past events.
Example: The flashback scene showed how they got their superpowers.
Where does flashback come from?
Flashback is a combination of the words flash and back—a typical flashback flashes (transitions) backward (to the past). The first records of the use of flashback as a term for a narrative tool come from the early 1900s.
Of course, the technique itself is much older and has been used since at least Homer’s Odyssey. Today, flashbacks are common in every form of fictional media. They’re typically used to provide backstory or exposition in a way that shows instead of tells—instead of having a character explain what happened, the scene is depicted for the audience. Flashbacks can be sudden (done without introduction), but they can also be set up in several ways, such as having a character say they remember something. In old movies, this was often followed by a rippling or hazy screen effect intended to indicate that the next scene was a flashback.
In real life, people sometimes use flashback to describe a sudden memory, as if they were in a movie or TV show, as in I just hung out with my younger cousin and it was like a flashback of my college days.
This should not be confused with how the term is used in the context of psychology. This phenomenon, also called flashback hallucinosis, involves a lifelike recollection of a past traumatic experience, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations. It can also refer to an instance in which the visual hallucinations or other effects of a drug (such as LSD) recur long after it was used, as in the phrase acid flashback. This sense of the word is first recorded around the 1960s.
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How is flashback used in real life?
Flashbacks are such a familiar narrative device that people often use the word to describe their own sudden memories as if their own life were a movie.
6. If you're a writer who's blocked, pick some manageable piece that happens further down the road– that scene you can't wait to write, that flashback, that kiss, even the climax or ending. Or just skip the scene that's giving you trouble and fix it later. Leap over roadblocks!
— Delilah S. Dawson (@DelilahSDawson) March 21, 2020
Ahh yes, the obligatory episode of any sitcom where the character’s reflect on past memories… and those memories are shown in a flashback. Usually there’s some form of cheesecake or late night snack involved.
— randy g:) (@GeersRandolph) October 12, 2019
I’m watching confessions of a teenage drama queen and I had a flashback of when I was like 6 years old and I tried to copy Lindsay Lohan’s jump kick in the end and I kneed myself in the face and broke my nose 🤠🤠🤠
— jerusha pitzer (@jerusha_pitzer) March 19, 2020
Try using flashback!
True or False?
A flashback can show something that happened in the past or that will happen in the future.
How to use flashback in a sentence
Most of the canonical pre-history of Jordan's fictional world is revealed in flashbacks and legends found in The Wheel of Time Companion, but it is otherwise largely unexplored territory.We’re getting a Wheel of Time prequel film trilogy to augment Amazon series|Jennifer Ouellette|July 14, 2021|Ars Technica
Then, another flashback opens — and we’re back to the scene of the crime.‘Cruel Summer’ finale reveals the truth about its biggest mystery. We think.|Bethonie Butler|June 16, 2021|Washington Post
The intensity of that man-made hive was like a flashback to the stress of packed subways, highways, and calendars.The Brain-Boosting Joy of Seeing Art Live With Other Humans for the First Time in Two Years|Susanna Schrobsdorff|May 10, 2021|Time
The scenes with the fewest frills work the best, particularly those involving Wright and Hudson, many of which are flashbacks that show the family dynamic at work.Monster Tells a Harrowing Story—But the Filmmaking Gets in the Way|Stephanie Zacharek|May 7, 2021|Time
Brundage introduces flashbacks that reveal the fissures in the Clares’ marriage—a tension that isn’t made clear in the film until later on.What to Know About the Real-Life Inspiration Behind Netflix's Things Heard & Seen|Annabel Gutterman|April 29, 2021|Time
While excoriating the IRS, Huckabee brings his readers along on a flashback to his youth.Huckabee 2016: Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner!|Olivia Nuzzi|January 8, 2015|DAILY BEAST
No, that would be the flashback revelation that Ross and Monica accidentally kissed once at a party.
In a flashback scene, Alicia tries to rebuild her life by interviewing for jobs and returning to work.Julianna Margulies's Favorite 'The Good Wife' Scenes|Julianna Margulies|August 11, 2014|DAILY BEAST
To give just one example of the way that culture has influenced how we think about trauma, consider the “flashback.”Surviving War Doesn’t Turn All Veterans into Victims, Sometimes it Helps Them Grow|David Morris|May 18, 2014|DAILY BEAST
This process is shown alongside black-and-white flashback clips of Christian preparing for his first-ever presentation.Designing the New Dior: ‘Dior & I’ Documentary Debuts at TriBeCa Film Festival|Erin Cunningham|April 18, 2014|DAILY BEAST
He woke to find Billy gone, and had a momentary panic, a flashback to the day that Fred had gone missing in the night.Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town|Cory Doctorow