Etymology
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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.

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."

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.

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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Definitions of flash
1
flash (n.)
a sudden intense burst of radiant energy;
flash (n.)
a momentary brightness;
flash (n.)
a short vivid experience;
a flash of emotion swept over him
Synonyms: flashing
flash (n.)
a sudden brilliant understanding;
he had a flash of intuition
flash (n.)
a very short time (as the time it takes the eye to blink or the heart to beat);
if I had the chance I'd do it in a flash
Synonyms: blink of an eye / heartbeat / instant / jiffy / split second / trice / twinkling / wink / New York minute
flash (n.)
a gaudy outward display;
Synonyms: ostentation / fanfare
flash (n.)
a burst of light used to communicate or illuminate;
Synonyms: flare
flash (n.)
a short news announcement concerning some on-going news story;
Synonyms: news bulletin / newsflash / newsbreak
flash (n.)
a bright patch of color used for decoration or identification;
red flashes adorned the airplane
a flash sewn on his sleeve indicated the unit he belonged to
flash (n.)
a lamp for providing momentary light to take a photograph;
Synonyms: photoflash / flash lamp / flashgun / flashbulb / flash bulb
2
flash (v.)
gleam or glow intermittently;
The lights were flashing
Synonyms: blink / wink / twinkle / winkle
flash (v.)
appear briefly;
The headlines flashed on the screen
flash (v.)
display proudly; act ostentatiously or pretentiously;
Synonyms: flaunt / show off / ostentate / swank
flash (v.)
make known or cause to appear with great speed;
The latest intelligence is flashed to all command posts
flash (v.)
run or move very quickly or hastily;
Synonyms: dart / dash / scoot / scud / shoot
flash (v.)
expose or show briefly;
he flashed a $100 bill
flash (v.)
protect by covering with a thin sheet of metal;
flash the roof
flash (v.)
emit a brief burst of light;
A shooting star flashed and was gone
3
flash (adj.)
tastelessly showy;
a flash car
From wordnet.princeton.edu