There are a lot of references made to other works and people in the series…
As a matter of fact, the series was inspired by and has some major references to
Journey to the West
You can read more about it here.
As one knows, the names in the series are usually puns on something or the other.
- Saiyan comes from Yasai meaning Vegetable and so the names are related to those
- In fact, the Brief Family’s names are a pun on Undergarments
- Frieza's henchmen are named after Fruits
You can read about the origins of many more names here.
Tenkaichi Budokai (天下一武道会)
You must have heard of Tenkaichi Budokai’s English translation- "World’s Martial Arts Tournament." I’ll say that that translation maybe right, but has lost it’s essence. A more accurate translation of Tenkaichi Budokai is “The Number One Under Heaven Martial Arts Gathering.”
It was inspired from Lei Tai – The Thunder Hand Platform; a Chinese martial arts tournament. You can read more about it here.
I believe that Goku's returning from the dead to save everyone is a reference to the New Testament.
Now to begin with references present only in a certain series..
Great Lee (A Character that resembles Bruce Lee)
Great Lee (グレート・リー, Gurēto Rī; "Great Lee"), also known as the Bruce Lee Impersonator, is a character who resembles the real life martial artist Bruce Lee.
￼He is first seen in a vision when Krillin tells Goku about the World Martial Arts Tournament in the episode "Milk Delivery". Later, the Bruce Lee Impersonator is seen several times in the Elimination Round at the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament.
Bruce Lee Impersonator in West City
Another character that resembles Bruce Lee is seen in West City in the episode 43, where he challenges people to a street fight and anyone who beats him will get 100,000 zeni.
During the preliminaries for the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai, Yamaha says,"Boards don't hit back". It's a reference to Bruce Lee's movie "Enter the Dragon."
Muscle Tower itself is a reference to a level of the game Spartan X/Kung Fu master which was based off of Bruce Lee's Game of Death.
To know more check the inspirations part at the beginning of this answer.
The Tiger Thief Bear Thief Qing Dynasty Armor
The armor the Tiger Thief wears resembles that worn by Chinese soldiers during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Bear Thief, the Tiger Thief, the nameless warrior trapped in the Gourd of Mist, the Ox King, Sky Dragon, and Lord Yao also wear similar armors.
Fangs The Vampire from Fortuneteller Baba Saga. A direct reference to Dracula.
Archdemon Cyclops Orc
Chenshi from fortuneteller baba saga
His character design is exactly the same as Turbo Norimaki (Dr. Slump).
Android #8 AKA Eighter (Japanese - Hat-chan) is a direct reference to Frankenstein's monster.
Jackie Chun is a direct reference to Jackie Chan. To know more check the inspirations part at the beginning of this answer.
Little Flower's Father from Aru Village in Emperor Pilaf Saga
Little Flower's Father (or Becky's Father in the Ocean Group dub) is a native American who lives in Aru Village. He bears a slight resemblance to the famous Sioux Indian chief Sitting Bull.
Superman from Dr. Slump in the Penguin Village episode, makes an appearance and goes to a phone booth to change his clothes, acting as a reference to Superman.
Tall Man from Tournament Saga
Tall Man (known as Noppo (ノッポ) in the Japanese version) is one of the cowboys seen in the Brown Country saloon. He seems to be a parody of the type of heroes in old westerns.
Major Metallitron is a direct reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie "Terminator"
The Invisible Man
See-Through The Invisible Man from Fortuneteller Baba Saga is a direct reference to the book by the same name.
Bandages The Mummy from Fortuneteller Baba Saga is a direct reference to the movie with the same name
The Wizard of Oz
There was a cameo of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Jack Pumpkinhead from the Wizard of Oz in the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament.
Kid Chichi's helmet is a reference to Ultraseven.
Unnamed Big Fighter
An unnamed fighter who fought the Bruce Lee Impersonator for 100,000 zen in the Red Ribbon Army Saga. This big fighter only appears in the anime.
He bears a slight resemblance to retired USMC drill instructor and actor R. Lee Ermey.
The entire turtle storyline that leads into Kame Rennin's first appearance is a reference to the legend of Urashima Taro.
Dragon Ball Z
Third Form of Frieza is a direct reference to Aliens from fictional novels.
The monster who fought Frankenstein in "Frankenstein Conquers the World" and later joined Godzilla's family - A cameo in Capsule Corps' garden
The names Bibidi, Babidi, and Buu are a direct reference to Fairy Godmother's song from Cinderella.
Himitsu no Akko-chan
Yakon is named after the magical phrase "Teku-Maku-Mayakon" from the shoujo manga and anime Himitsu no Akko-chan.
A KFC Colonel Sanders appears once during the Buu Saga.
King Kai's Bubbles is a direct reference to Michael Jackson's Bubbles.
Hirudegarn crashing into the TV tower before undergoing metamorphosis is an homage to the first Mothra movie (1961).
The Ginyu Force has some resemblances and references to Super Sentai teams (and by extension, Power Rangers teams): five color-coded warriors, tendencies to pose during battle, role calls and supernatural powers.
Complete Android and Cell Saga is a reference to The Terminator
The Sword in the Stone
The Z-sword is a direct reference to The Sword in the Stone.
Gohan dressing up as "Great Saiyaman" Videl dressing up as "Great Saiyaman #2" is be a reference to Yatterman, where Yatterman's girlfriend is "Yatterman No.2".
DBZ Fukkatsu No F