Green’s Dictionary of Slang

flash n.1

1. in senses of display, ostentation.

(a) [early 17C–mid-19C] a nouveau riche, ostentatious person.

(b) [early 19C] fashion.

(c) [mid-19C+] ostentation, showiness, vulgarity.

(d) [1910s] (US Und.) a show-off, a braggart.

(e) [1920s–50s] (US Und.) a suit of clothes.

(f) [1920s+] (Aus.) one’s personal appearance.

2. [late 17C–18C] a periwig; thus rum flash n., a long, full, expensive wig; queer flash n., an old, raggedy wig [? its being worn by an ostentatious person, i.e. sense 1b above].

3. in the context of the criminal and/or sporting worlds.

(a) [mid-18C+] cant or criminal slang; also attrib.

(b) [19C] a generic term for the criminal underworld.

(c) [early 19C] sporting jargon.

4. with ref. to money or commodities (often counterfeit).

(a) [mid-19C+] (UK Und.) a large bundle of notes, esp. when used in a game of three-card monte to entice victims; thus make a flash v., to exhibit a large bundle of notes.

(b) [late 19C+] (UK Und.) imitation gold coins or banknotes; also attrib.

(c) [1920s+] (UK/US Und.) cheap but alluring items, e.g. cheap jewellery, used to lure players into carnival games, confidence tricks etc.

(d) (US) (genuine) jewels.

(e) [1960s] anything counterfeit.

(f) [1970s+] (US gay) cheap jewellery worn by homosexual males.

5. see flash of lightning under lightning n.

6. in senses of brevity .

(a) [late 19C–1950s] (orig. US) a quick look around.

(b) [20C+] (orig. US) a brief glimpse [initially a ref. to the conscious ‘flashing’ by striptease/burlesque artists].

(c) [1930s+] a brief glimpse when offered to a man by a woman inadvertently revealing her thighs, breasts or genitals; or vice versa, of a penis.

(d) [1980s] a sign of flirtatious behaviour.

7. in senses of suddenness.

(a) [late 19C–1970s] (US) a surprising piece of news or a rumour.

(b) [1920s+] (US) a burst of inspiration, a sudden idea.

(c) [1920s+] a flashback.

8. [1940s] a success.

9. in the context of drugs.

(a) [1940s+] the instantaneous effect that follows the injection of a narcotic or other drug; also in non-drug use.

(b) [1960s] a flashback to a previous psychotropic drug experience.

(c) [1960s+] the effect of LSD.

(d) [1970s+] LSD.

10. [1970s] a cigarette lighter.

11. [1970s] a general term of address.

In phrases

cut a flash (v.)

[late 18C–mid-19C] to act in a vulgar manner, to show off.

cut the flash (v.)

[20C+] (Aus.) to show off, to be very well known or successful, to cut a ‘fine figure’.

out of flash

[early 19C] in an attempt to show off; ‘a person who affects any particular habit, as swearing, dressing...taking snuff..., merely to be taken notice of, is said to do it “out of flash”’ (Vaux).

patter (the) flash (v.)

[19C] (UK Und.) to talk, usu. slang or underworld cant.

scoff the flash (v.)

[1960s] (US Und.) to consume or otherwise use anything that is being displayed as a lure in a confidence trick.

stam flash (v.) (also stam fish, stam flesh, stamp-flash) [? Ger. stimmen, to make one’s voice heard, to sing]

[late 17C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) to talk in thieves’ cant.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

flash in the pan (n.)

see separate entries.

flash of light (n.)

1. [late 19C] a gaudily dressed woman [‘upon the model of a rainbow’ (Ware)].

2. [1970s+] a sight [rhy. sl.].