1. 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.
  2. an event or scene so inserted.
  3. 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.


  1. a transition in a novel, film, etc, to an earlier scene or event

verb flash back

  1. (intr, adverb) to return in a novel, film, etc, to a past event

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.


  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.

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