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Roll vs. Hand Roll: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Aimie Carlson || Updated on June 1, 2024
A "roll" is a general term for something that turns over on itself or a small bread, while a "hand roll" refers specifically to a sushi type rolled by hand or a rolled item made manually.

Key Differences

"Roll" is a versatile word in English, having multiple meanings, from the action of turning over on itself to describing certain baked goods. On the other hand, "hand roll" emphasizes an item being rolled manually, often in the context of sushi.
The term "roll" can describe the motion of an object, as in a ball rolling down a hill. Additionally, it can refer to a cylindrical shape of something wound around itself. Conversely, "hand roll" carries the implication of human touch and hand-made craftsmanship, particularly seen in sushi establishments.
While "roll" finds usage in a variety of scenarios and contexts, "hand roll" is more niche. In culinary contexts, a roll could mean a small loaf of bread, but a hand roll distinctly denotes a sushi type where ingredients are enveloped in a cone-shaped seaweed sheet.
To further elaborate, if someone orders a roll at a bakery, they'll get bread. But if they order a hand roll at a sushi bar, they'll receive a specific sushi format. The distinction between "roll" and "hand roll" becomes apparent in these contexts.
"Roll" and "hand roll" exhibit the breadth of the English language, where one word can have broad applications and the other denotes something specific, revealing the importance of context in understanding their differences.

Comparison Chart

General Meaning

Turning over on itself or small bread
Item made manually, especially sushi

Context of Use

Various, depending on the situation
Often related to manually made items

Function in Sentence

Noun or verb, based on context
Typically a noun


"She did a roll in gymnastics."
"He ordered a tuna hand roll at the sushi bar."


Singular and plural forms exist
Singular and plural forms exist

Roll and Hand Roll Definitions


A cylinder formed by winding flexible material around itself.
She put her hair in rolls overnight.

Hand Roll

A sushi type, with ingredients wrapped in a cone-shaped seaweed.
She ordered a spicy tuna hand roll.


A small piece of bread.
I'll have a roll with my soup.

Hand Roll

The act of rolling something by hand.
He mastered the art of the hand roll with delicate fabrics.


To move by turning over and over.
The ball began to roll down the hill.

Hand Roll

An item made by manually rolling.
The artisan crafted a hand roll cigarette.


A list or register.
She checked the roll call to see who was absent.

Hand Roll

A manual technique in certain crafts.
The hand roll method created a unique texture in the pottery.


A written document that is rolled up.
The ancient roll was kept in the museum.

Hand Roll

A product emphasizing its handmade nature.
Customers appreciated the hand roll touch in the craft.


Can "roll" be a verb and a noun?

Yes, "roll" can denote the action of turning (verb) or describe items like bread or a list (noun).

What does "roll" mean?

"Roll" can mean the action of turning over or describe a small piece of bread, among other definitions.

What is a "hand roll" in the context of sushi?

A "hand roll" is a type of sushi where ingredients are wrapped in a cone-shaped seaweed sheet.

How does a hand roll differ from a sushi roll?

A sushi roll is typically cylindrical and cut into pieces, while a hand roll is cone-shaped and often eaten with hands.

Can "roll" mean a list of names?

Yes, for example, in "roll call" or an attendance roll.

Can "hand roll" also mean a craft technique?

Yes, it can denote a manual rolling method in crafts, emphasizing the hand-made touch.

Is a "hand roll" always related to food?

No, while commonly associated with sushi, "hand roll" can also refer to any item made by manually rolling.

Can "roll" describe a motion in dancing or gymnastics?

Absolutely, such as in "She did a forward roll."

What denotes the "hand" in "hand roll"?

It emphasizes the manual method or hand-made nature of the roll.

Is "roll" used in everyday English frequently?

Yes, "roll" is versatile and can be used in multiple contexts.

Do both "roll" and "hand roll" have plural forms?

Yes, they can be "rolls" and "hand rolls" respectively.

Is a "hand roll" always cone-shaped?

Typically in the context of sushi, yes. Otherwise, it emphasizes the manual method of rolling.

Can "roll" relate to music?

Yes, like in "drum roll" or the genre "rock and roll."

Does every "hand roll" contain fish?

Not necessarily. Hand rolls can have various fillings, including vegetables or other proteins.

If I order a "roll" at a sushi place, will I get a "hand roll"?

Not necessarily. You might get a cylindrical sushi roll unless you specify "hand roll."
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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