Etymology
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flash (n.1)
1560s, "sudden burst of flame or light," from flash (v.); originally of lightning. Figuratively (of wit, laughter, anger, etc.) from c. 1600. Meaning "period occupied by a flash, very short time" is from 1620s. Sense of "superficial brilliancy" is from 1670s. Meaning "first news report" is from 1857. The comic book character dates to 1940. Meaning "photographic lamp" is from 1913. Flash cube (remember those?) is from 1965.

Flash in the pan (1704 literal, 1705 figurative) is from old-style firearms, where the powder might ignite in the pan but fail to spark the main charge; hence figurative sense "brilliant outburst followed by failure."
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flash (n.2)
"sudden rush of water," 1660s, earlier "watery place or marsh, a swamp" (c. 1400; in place names from c. 1300), of uncertain origin or connection to flash (n.1); perhaps from Old French flache, from Middle Dutch vlacke. Flash flood is from 1940.
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flash (adj.)
from flash (v.) in various and unconnected senses, often slang; sense of "of or associated with thieves, prostitutes, etc." is from c. 1700. That of "vulgar, showy" is from 1785 (it is older in flashy). That of "expert, smart" is from 1812.
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flash (v.)
Middle English flashen, flasken (c. 1200), "sprinkle or splash (water, powder, etc.); to gush forth;" probably at least partly imitative (compare splash, dash), or in part from PIE *bhleu- "to swell, well up," extended form of root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell." From c. 1400, of birds, "to dart or flit" also, of fire, "burst into flames." Some of the extended senses perhaps are from Scandinavian. Meanings "burst suddenly into view" (intransitive) and "emit or send forth suddenly" (transitive) are from 1580s. the Sense of "expose the genitals" is recorded by 1846. Related: Flashed; flashing. Flash card is from 1923.
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flash-point (n.)
also flashpoint, "temperature at which vapor will ignite momentarily," 1869, from flash (v.) + point (n.). Figurative use by 1955. Slightly earlier as flashing-point (1867).
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flashing (adj.)
1540s, of light; present-participle adjective from flash (v.).
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flashing (n.)
1791, "act of creating an artificial flood," verbal noun from flash (v.); also compare flash (n.2)). Meaning "indecent exposure" is by 1968 (see flasher). The meaning "strip of metal used in roofing, etc." is from 1782, earlier simply flash (1570s), but the sense connection is unclear and it might be an unrelated word.
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flashy (adj.)
"showy, cheaply attractive," 1680s, from flash (n.1) + -y (2). Earlier it meant "splashing" (1580s); "sparkling, giving off flashes" (c. 1600), but those senses have become rare. Related: Flashily; flashiness.
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fly (adj.)
slang, "clever, alert, wide awake," by 1811, perhaps from fly (n.) on the notion of the insect being hard to catch. Other theories, however, trace it to fledge or flash. Slang use in 1990s might be a revival or a reinvention.
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flashback (n.)
also flash-back, 1903 in reference to fires in engines or furnaces, from verbal phrase (1902), from flash (v.) + back (adv.). 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.
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