\ˈflash \
flashed; flashing; flashes

Definition of flash 

(Entry 1 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : rush, dash used of flowing water

2 : to break forth in or like a sudden flame or flare

3a : to appear suddenly an idea flashes into her mind

b : to move with great speed the days flash by

4a : to break forth or out so as to make a sudden display

b : to act or speak vehemently and suddenly especially in anger

5a : to give off light suddenly or in transient bursts

b : to glow or gleam especially with animation or passion her eyes flashed with anger

6 : to change suddenly or violently into vapor

7 : to expose one's breasts or genitals usually suddenly and briefly in public

8 : to have sudden insight often used with on

transitive verb

1a archaic : splash

b : to fill by a sudden inflow of water

2a : to cause the sudden appearance of (light)

b : to cause to burst violently into flame

c(1) : to cause (light) to reflect

(2) : to cause (something) to reflect light flash a mirror

(3) : to cause (a lamp) to flash

d : to convey by means of flashes of light

3a : to make known or cause to appear with great speed flash a message on the screen

b : to display obtrusively and ostentatiously always flashing a roll of bills

c : to expose to view usually suddenly and briefly flashed a badge

4 : to cover with or form into a thin layer: such as

a : to protect against rain by covering with sheet metal or a substitute

b : to coat (glass) with a thin layer (as of metal or a differently colored glass)

5 : to subject (an exposed photographic negative or positive) to a supplementary uniform exposure to light before development in order to modify detail or tone

6 : to expose one's breasts or genitals usually suddenly and briefly to flashed the audience



Definition of flash (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : a sudden burst of light

b : a movement of a flag in signaling

2 : a sudden and often brilliant burst a flash of wit

3 : a brief time

4a : show, display especially : a vulgar ostentatious display

b archaic : a showy ostentatious person

c : one that attracts notice especially : an outstanding athlete

d : pizzazz

5 obsolete : thieves' slang

6 : something flashed: such as

a : glimpse, look

b : smile

c : a first brief news report

d : flashlight sense 1

e : a quick-spreading flame or momentary intense outburst of radiant heat

f(1) : flashlight sense 2

(2) : a device for producing a flashlight for taking photographs

8 : the rapid conversion of a liquid into vapor



Definition of flash (Entry 3 of 4)

1a : flashy, showy

b : of, relating to, or characteristic of flashy people or things flash behavior

c : of, relating to, or characteristic of persons considered social outcasts flash language

2 : of sudden origin and short duration a flash fire

3 : having or using a solid-state data storage technology that retains data even without a connection to a power source flash memory



Definition of flash (Entry 4 of 4)

: by very brief exposure to an intense altering agent (such as heat or cold) flash fry flash freeze

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Choose the Right Synonym for flash


flash, gleam, glint, sparkle, glitter, glisten, glimmer, shimmer mean to send forth light. flash implies a sudden outburst of bright light. lightning flashed gleam suggests a steady light seen through an obscuring medium or against a dark background. lights gleamed in the valley glint implies a cold glancing light. glinting steel sparkle suggests innumerable moving points of bright light. the sparkling waters glitter connotes a brilliant sparkling or gleaming. glittering diamonds glisten applies to the soft sparkle from a wet or oily surface. glistening wet sidewalk glimmer suggests a faint or wavering gleam. a distant glimmering light shimmer means shining with a wavering light. a shimmering satin dress

Did You Know?

The origin of the word flash is uncertain, although it rhymes with a number of other verbs that also mean forceful, often violent movement that may come to a quick end: dash, lash, crash, slash, clash, gash, bash, splash, smash. These words turn up in English over a fairly long period of time, from dash— the only word in the group with a likely foreign source—in the 14th century, to smash in the 18th century. The element -ash has thus provided a kind of model for new words. The initial fl – that is added to -ash to make flash is also heard in words meaning quick movement, as flee, fly, flicker, and flutter.

Examples of flash in a Sentence


Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed. Cameras flashed as the celebrities passed. A car was sitting on the side of the road with its lights flashing. A message flashed on the screen. The screen flashed a message in black letters. Her eyes flashed with anger.


A brilliant flash lit up the sky. The idea for the movie came to her in a flash of inspiration. They relied on gimmicks and flash to get people's attention. a show with a lot of flash but little substance


flash floods in the local area
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The ceremony paused for a moment of silence as the faces of their fallen classmates and teachers flashed across a large screen. Robert Downen, Houston Chronicle, "Santa Fe pauses to celebrate graduates two weeks after school shooting," 1 June 2018 As Khannah flashed it on a screen with a projector, the five members of his team stole furtive glances at one another, nervous that Balwani might become wise to the prank. John Carreyrou, WIRED, "A New Look Inside Theranos’ Dysfunctional Corporate Culture," 21 May 2018 The Brother/Sister Plays,’’ a remarkable trilogy by Tarell Alvin McCraney, flashed across the Boston theater landscape seven years ago like a bolt of lightning, at once searing and illuminating. Don Aucoin, BostonGlobe.com, "The runway is ablaze, but ‘Wig Out!’ skims its glittering surface," 1 May 2018 As news of the deaths flashed across national TV networks, a distraught Ellie Pina called FPL – again. Megan O'matz, Sun-Sentinel.com, "FPL was warned people would die at a sweltering nursing home. But the utility had other priorities.," 10 Feb. 2018 Hunter Bryant, Washington Bryant flashed All-America potential as a true freshman before an injury in late October effectively ended his season. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "The 10 best tight ends in college football," 13 July 2018 Steck was the preternaturally talented sport climber who could flash up technical routes faster than almost anyone. Nick Heil, Outside Online, "Are Kilian Jornet's Speed Records Too Good to Be True?," 12 July 2018 No, on both fronts, and here’s why. Once that price flashes up on the screen, how is a consumer going to make use of it? Craig Martin, STAT, "Why putting drug prices in ads is a bad idea," 11 July 2018 After a reported dream proposal in paradise, Hailey Baldwin wasn't shy about flashing her massive new engagement ring from Justin Bieber. Sam Tornow, Billboard, "Hailey Baldwin Flashes Engagement Ring From Justin Bieber in the Bahamas: Photos," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Are these flashes meant to be fantasy, horror, memory? Sonia Saraiya, HWD, "Sharp Objects Is Stunning, Raw, and Violently Beautiful," 5 July 2018 Start by setting your camera to full manual mode and turning off the flash. Emily Price, Popular Mechanics, "How to Capture Perfect Fireworks Photos," 3 July 2018 The images can visit in a single flash behind your eyes or play out before you as a detailed scene. Ashleigh Young, The Cut, "Ghost Knife," 2 July 2018 Boyd showed flashes, inducing 10 swing-and-misses, but had a bad day. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers, Matthew Boyd swept out of Cleveland by Indians, 12-2," 24 June 2018 Saddled with massive expectations and a lineup of talent the envy of other teams in the tournament, Belgium finally showed flashes of being the dominant team worthy of title consideration. Tim Booth, BostonGlobe.com, "Belgium wakes up in second half, rolls past Panama," 18 June 2018 Gesicki showed flashes of his strengths during organized team activities and minicamp, which ended Thursday. Jordan Mcpherson, miamiherald, "The Miami Dolphins' final rookie from the 2018 draft class is now under contract," 18 June 2018 The Ole Miss defensive lineman is athletic, and shows flashes of dominance. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "Chiefs GM Brett Veach made statement for defense on Day 2 of NFL Draft | The Kansas City Star," 27 Apr. 2018 And news flash: Hawaii banned all chemical sunscreens because the active ingredients are killing the coral. Janna Mandell, SFChronicle.com, "Summer skin-care solutions by microclimate," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

If the winds stay to the east, there could be flash snowfalls in the mountains. Miguel Almaguer, NBC News, "Record-breaking cold? PyeongChang braces for frigid weather ahead of Olympics," 5 Feb. 2018 Downpours were dumping a quick inch or two of rain on parts of the Baltimore region, including Ellicott City, on Tuesday, prompting the National Weather Service to issue flash flood warnings. Scott Dance, baltimoresun.com, "Howard County, Baltimore under flash flood warnings," 15 Aug. 2017 Flash flood criteria will be easily met in any location where additional rain falls. Greg Porter, Washington Post, "PM Update: Torrential rain continues on and off through the night, showers taper off on Saturday," 28 July 2017 Flash organizations may even promote upward mobility — if, say, the person brought in to crank out one-line poems can ascend to a supervisory position. Noam Scheiber, New York Times, "The Pop-Up Employer: Build a Team, Do the Job, Say Goodbye," 12 July 2017 Flash memory is used in solid-state drives that have replaced many hard drives, and in smartphones and tablets. David Staats And Kristin Rodine, idahostatesman, "New CEO ‘uniquely qualified’ to lead Micron, co-founded and led successful competitor," 27 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'flash.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of flash


13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1549, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1700, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1970, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for flash


Middle English flaschen, of imitative origin

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Dictionary Entries near flash





flash back



Statistics for flash

Last Updated

9 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for flash

The first known use of flash was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for flash



English Language Learners Definition of flash

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: to shine or give off bright light suddenly or in repeated bursts

: to appear quickly or suddenly

: to move or pass very quickly



English Language Learners Definition of flash (Entry 2 of 3)

: a sudden bright light

: a sudden appearance or occurrence of something

: a fancy or exciting quality or appearance that is meant to attract attention to something that is usually not very good or interesting



English Language Learners Definition of flash (Entry 3 of 3)

: beginning suddenly and lasting only a short time

: very talented


\ˈflash \
flashed; flashing

Kids Definition of flash

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : to shine or give off bright light suddenly Lightning flashed in the sky.

2 : to appear quickly or suddenly A message flashed on the screen.

3 : to come or pass very suddenly A car flashed by.

4 : to show briefly The officer flashed his badge.



Kids Definition of flash (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a sudden burst of or as if of light a flash of lightning a flash of brilliance

2 : a very short time I'll be back in a flash.



Kids Definition of flash (Entry 3 of 3)

: beginning suddenly and lasting only a short time flash floods


\ˈflash \

Medical Definition of flash 

: rush sense 2 — compare hot flash

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