# Rotate vs. Roll: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 2, 2023
Rotate refers to moving in a circular motion around an axis, while roll means to move by turning over and over on an axis.

## Key Differences

Rotate and roll, both denote movement but in distinct manners. To rotate implies turning around a central point in a circular motion, such as how the Earth rotates on its axis. It involves a pivotal motion where one part remains stationary, acting as the center, while the other parts move in a circular path around it. On the contrary, roll signifies the act of moving by turning over and over on an axis. It is akin to how a ball or wheel moves, where every part of the object sequentially comes into contact with the surface on which it moves.
In the realm of machinery and engineering, both rotate and roll have specific implications. For instance, in an engine, a shaft might rotate within its bearings. Here, it turns around its central longitudinal axis without shifting its position. Conversely, a car's tire doesn't just rotate around its axis; it also rolls along the ground, ensuring that the vehicle moves forward or backward.
From a linguistic point of view, rotate often implies a systematic or scheduled change. In professions or duties, when individuals rotate their roles, they take turns at a particular position or task. Roll, in a similar context, can be about a list or a register, like a classroom roll where names of students are listed, or when we say the "cameras are rolling," indicating the start of a recording.
In culinary contexts, rotate might mean turning food to ensure even cooking, such as rotating a chicken on a spit. Roll, however, can indicate the action of flattening or shaping something, like rolling dough into a flat circle. Both actions, while involving movement, have different outcomes and purposes.

## Comparison Chart

### Definition

Turning around a central point
Moving by turning over and over on an axis

### Mechanical Context

A shaft rotating within bearings
A car tire moving on the ground

### Linguistic Use

Systematic or scheduled change
Referring to a list or the start of recording

### Movement

Circular motion around a fixed point
Over and over motion along a surface

### Culinary Context

Turning food for even cooking
Flattening or shaping something

## Rotate and Roll Definitions

#### Rotate

To move in a circular pattern.
The fan rotates to circulate air evenly.

#### Roll

To start a recording.
And... roll camera!

#### Rotate

To turn around a central point.
The Earth rotates on its axis.

#### Roll

To lurch or sway.
The ship began to roll in the stormy seas.

#### Rotate

To take turns in a role or position.
Nurses rotate shifts to ensure 24-hour care.

#### Roll

To move forward along a surface by revolving on an axis or by repeatedly turning over.

#### Rotate

To change the position by turning.
She had to rotate the puzzle piece to make it fit.

#### Roll

To travel or be moved on wheels or rollers
Rolled down the sidewalk on their scooters.

#### Rotate

To follow in a sequence or order.
We rotate crops to improve soil health.

#### Roll

To travel around; wander
Roll from town to town.

#### Rotate

To turn around on an axis or center.

#### Roll

To travel or be carried in a vehicle.

#### Rotate

To proceed in sequence; take turns or alternate
Interns will rotate through the various departments.

#### Roll

To be carried on a stream
The logs rolled down the cascading river.

#### Rotate

To cause to turn on an axis or center.

#### Roll

To start to move or operate
The press wouldn't roll.

#### Rotate

To plant or grow (crops) in a fixed order of succession.

#### Roll

To work or succeed in a sustained way; gain momentum
The political campaign finally began to roll.

#### Rotate

To cause to alternate or proceed in sequence
The coach rotates her players frequently near the end of the game.

#### Roll

To go by; elapse
The days rolled along.

#### Roll

To recur. Often used with around
Summer has rolled around again.

#### Rotate

(intransitive) To spin, turn, or revolve.
He rotated in his chair to face me.
The earth rotates.

#### Roll

To move in a periodic revolution, as a planet in its orbit.

#### Rotate

(intransitive) To advance through a sequence; to take turns.
The nurses' shifts rotate each week.

#### Roll

To turn over and over
The puppy rolled in the mud.

#### Rotate

To lift the nose during takeoff, just prior to liftoff.
The aircraft rotates at sixty knots.

#### Roll

To shift the gaze usually quickly and continually
The child's eyes rolled with fright.

#### Rotate

(transitive) To spin, turn, or revolve something.
Rotate the dial to the left.

#### Roll

To turn around or revolve on an axis.

#### Rotate

(transitive) To advance something through a sequence; to allocate or deploy in turns.

#### Roll

To move or advance with a rising and falling motion; undulate
The waves rolled toward shore.

#### Rotate

(transitive) To replace older materials or to place older materials in front of newer ones so that older ones get used first.
The supermarket rotates the stock daily so that old foods don't sit around.

#### Roll

To extend or appear to extend in gentle rises and falls
The dunes roll to the sea.

#### Rotate

(transitive) To grow or plant (crops) in a certain order.

#### Roll

To move or rock from side to side
The ship pitched and rolled in heavy seas.

#### Rotate

Having the parts spreading out like a wheel; wheel-shaped.
A rotate spicule or scale; a rotate corolla

#### Roll

To walk with a swaying, unsteady motion.

#### Rotate

Having the parts spreading out like a wheel; wheel-shaped; as, a rotate spicule or scale; a rotate corolla, i.e., a monopetalous corolla with a flattish border, and no tube or a very short one.

#### Roll

(Slang) To experience periodic rushes after taking an intoxicating drug, especially MDMA.

#### Rotate

To turn, as a wheel, round an axis; to revolve.

#### Roll

To take the shape of a ball or cylinder
Yarn rolls easily.

#### Rotate

To perform any act, function, or operation in turn, to hold office in turn; as, to rotate in office.

#### Roll

To become flattened by pressure applied by a roller.

#### Rotate

To cause to turn round or revolve, as a wheel around an axle.

#### Roll

To make a deep, prolonged, surging sound
Thunder rolled in the distance.

#### Rotate

To cause to succeed in turn; esp., to cause to succeed some one, or to be succeeded by some one, in office.

#### Roll

To make a sustained trilling sound, as certain birds do.

#### Rotate

Turn on or around an axis or a center;
The Earth revolves around the Sun
The lamb roast rotates on a spit over the fire

#### Roll

To beat a drum in a continuous series of short blows.

#### Rotate

Exchange on a regular basis;
We rotate the lead soprano every night

#### Roll

To pour, flow, or move in a continual stream
Tourists rolling into the city.

#### Rotate

Cause to turn on an axis or center;
Rotate the handle

#### Roll

To enjoy ample amounts
Rolled in the money.

#### Rotate

Perform a job or duty on a rotating basis;
Interns have to rotate for a few months

#### Roll

To cause to move forward along a surface by revolving on an axis or by repeatedly turning over.

#### Rotate

Turn outward;
These birds can splay out their toes
Ballet dancers can rotate their legs out by 90 degrees

#### Roll

To move or push along on wheels or rollers
Rolled the plane out of the hangar.

#### Rotate

Plant or grow in a fixed cyclic order of succession;
We rotate the crops so as to maximize the use of the soil

#### Roll

To impel or send onward in a steady, swelling motion
The sea rolls its waves onto the sand.

#### Roll

To impart a swaying, rocking motion to
Heavy seas rolled the ship.

#### Roll

To turn around or partly turn around; rotate
Rolled his head toward the door.

#### Roll

To cause to begin moving or operating
Roll the cameras.
Roll the presses.

#### Roll

To extend or lay out
Rolled out a long rope.

#### Roll

To pronounce or utter with a trill
You must roll your r's in Spanish.

#### Roll

To utter or emit in full, swelling tones.

#### Roll

To beat (a drum) with a continuous series of short blows.

#### Roll

To wrap (something) round and round upon itself or around something else. Often used with up
Roll up a poster.

#### Roll

To envelop or enfold in a covering
Roll dirty laundry in a sheet.

#### Roll

To make by shaping into a ball or cylinder
Roll a cigarette.

#### Roll

To spread, compress, or flatten by applying pressure with a roller
Roll pastry dough.

#### Roll

(Printing) To apply ink to (type) with a roller or rollers.

#### Roll

(Games) To throw (dice), as in craps.

#### Roll

(Slang) To rob (a drunken, sleeping, or otherwise helpless person).

#### Roll

The act or an instance of rolling.

#### Roll

Something rolled up
A roll of tape.

#### Roll

A quantity, as of cloth or wallpaper, rolled into a cylinder and often considered as a unit of measure.

#### Roll

A piece of parchment or paper that may be or is rolled up; a scroll.

#### Roll

A register or a catalogue.

#### Roll

A list of names of persons belonging to a group.

#### Roll

A mass in cylindrical or rounded form
A roll of tobacco.

#### Roll

A small loaf of bread, portioned for one individual and often served as a side dish or appetizer or used to make a sandwich.

#### Roll

A portion of food wrapped around a filling
Cinnamon roll.
Sushi roll.

#### Roll

A rolling, swaying, or rocking motion.

#### Roll

A gentle swell or undulation of a surface
The roll of the plains.

#### Roll

A deep reverberation or rumble
The roll of thunder.

#### Roll

A rapid succession of short sounds
The roll of a drum.

#### Roll

A trill
The roll of his r's.

#### Roll

A resonant, rhythmical flow of words.

#### Roll

A roller, especially a cylinder on which to roll something up or with which to flatten something.

#### Roll

An amount of rotation around a longitudinal axis, as of an aircraft or boat.

#### Roll

A maneuver in which an airplane makes a single complete rotation about its longitudinal axis without changing direction or losing altitude.

#### Roll

(Slang) Money, especially a wad of paper money.

#### Roll

(transitive) To cause to revolve by turning over and over; to move by turning on an axis; to impel forward by causing to turn over and over on a supporting surface.
To roll a wheel, a ball, or a barrel.

#### Roll

(intransitive) To turn over and over.
The child will roll on the floor.

#### Roll

(intransitive) To tumble in gymnastics; to do a somersault.

#### Roll

(transitive) To wrap (something) round on itself; to form into a spherical or cylindrical body by causing to turn over and over.
To roll a sheet of paper; to roll clay or putty into a ball.

#### Roll

(transitive) To bind or involve by winding, as in a bandage; to enwrap; often with up.
To roll up the map for shipping.

#### Roll

(intransitive) To be wound or formed into a cylinder or ball.
The cloth rolls unevenly; the snow rolls well.

#### Roll

(ergative) To drive or impel forward with an easy motion, as of rolling.
This river will roll its waters to the ocean.

#### Roll

(ergative) To utter copiously, especially with sounding words; to utter with a deep sound; — often with forth, or out.
To roll forth someone's praises; to roll out sentences.

#### Roll

(transitive) To press or level with a roller; to spread or form with a roll, roller, or rollers.
To roll a field;
To roll paste;
To roll steel rails.

#### Roll

(intransitive) To spread itself under a roller or rolling-pin.
The pastry rolls well.

#### Roll

(ergative) To move, or cause to be moved, upon, or by means of, rollers or small wheels.

#### Roll

To leave or begin a journey.
I want to get there early; let's roll.

#### Roll

To compete, especially with vigor.
OK guys, we're only down by two points. Let's roll!

#### Roll

(transitive) To beat with rapid, continuous strokes, as a drum; to sound a roll upon.

#### Roll

(geometry) To apply (one line or surface) to another without slipping; to bring all the parts of (one line or surface) into successive contact with another, in such a manner that at every instant the parts that have been in contact are equal.

#### Roll

(transitive) To turn over in one's mind; to revolve.

#### Roll

To behave in a certain way; to adopt a general disposition toward a situation.
I was going to kick his ass, but he wasn't worth getting all worked up over; I don't roll like that.

To throw dice.

#### Roll

To roll dice such that they form a given pattern or total.
If you roll doubles, you get an extra turn.
With two dice, you're more likely to roll seven than ten.

#### Roll

(RPG) To create a new character in a role-playing game, especially by using dice to determine properties.
I'm gonna go and roll a new shaman tonight.

#### Roll

To generate a random number.

#### Roll

To rotate about the fore-and-aft axis, causing its sides to go up and down. Compare pitch.

#### Roll

To travel by sailing.

#### Roll

(transitive) To beat up; to assault.

#### Roll

To cause to betray secrets or to testify for the prosecution.
The feds rolled him by giving him a free pass for most of what he'd done.

#### Roll

To betray secrets.
He rolled on those guys after being in jail two days.

#### Roll

To be under the influence of MDMA (a psychedelic stimulant, also known as ecstasy).

#### Roll

To (cause to) film.
The cameras are rolling.
It's time to roll the cameras.

#### Roll

To slip past (a defender) with the ball.

#### Roll

(intransitive) To have a rolling aspect.
The hills rolled on

#### Roll

To perform a periodical revolution; to move onward as with a revolution.
The years roll on.

#### Roll

(intransitive) To move, like waves or billows, with alternate swell and depression.

#### Roll

To move and cause an effect on someone

#### Roll

(intransitive) To make a loud or heavy rumbling noise.
The thunder rolled and the lightning flashed.

#### Roll

(transitive) To utter with an alveolar trill.
Many languages roll their r's.

#### Roll

To enrobe in toilet-paper (as a prank or spectacle).
The kids rolled the principal's house and yard.

#### Roll

(transitive) To create a customized version of.

#### Roll

To engage in sparring in the context of jujitsu or other grappling disciplines.

#### Roll

To load ocean freight cargo onto a vessel other than the one it was meant to sail on.
Containers will be rolled to another mother vessel.

#### Roll

The act or result of rolling, or state of being rolled.
The roll of a ball
Look at the roll of the waves.
The roll of her eyes

#### Roll

A forward or backward roll in gymnastics; going head over heels. A tumble.

#### Roll

Something which rolls.

#### Roll

A heavy cylinder used to break clods.

#### Roll

One of a set of revolving cylinders, or rollers, between which metal is pressed, formed, or smoothed, as in a rolling mill.
To pass rails through the rolls

#### Roll

A swagger or rolling gait.

#### Roll

A heavy, reverberatory sound.
Hear the roll of cannon.
There was a roll of thunder and the rain began to pour down.

#### Roll

The uniform beating of a drum with strokes so rapid as scarcely to be distinguished by the ear.

#### Roll

The oscillating movement of a nautical vessel as it rotates from side to side, about its fore-and-aft axis, causing its sides to go up and down, as distinguished from the alternate rise and fall of bow and stern called pitching; or the equivalent in an aircraft.

#### Roll

(nautical) The measure or extent to which a vessel rotates from side to side, about its fore-and-aft axis.

#### Roll

The rotation angle about the longitudinal axis.
Calculate the roll of that aircraft.

#### Roll

An instance of the act of rolling an aircraft through one or more complete rotations about its longitudinal axis.
The pilots entertained the spectators at the airshow by doing multiple rolls.

#### Roll

The act of, or total resulting from, rolling one or more dice.
Whoever gets the highest roll moves first.

#### Roll

A winning streak of continuing luck, especially at gambling and especially in the phrase on a roll.
He is on a roll tonight.

#### Roll

A training match for a fighting dog.

#### Roll

An instance of the act of righting a canoe or kayak which has capsized, without exiting the watercraft, or being assisted.
That was a good roll.

#### Roll

(paddlesport) The skill of righting a canoe or kayak which has capsized, without exiting the watercraft, or being assisted.
She has a bombproof roll.

#### Roll

(finance) Any of various financial instruments or transactions that involve opposite positions at different expiries, "rolling" a position from one expiry to another.

#### Roll

That which is rolled up.
A roll of fat, of wool, paper, cloth, etc.

#### Roll

A document written on a piece of parchment, paper, or other materials which may be rolled up; a scroll.

#### Roll

An official or public document; a register; a record.

#### Roll

A catalogue or list, (especially) one kept for official purposes.
Several people sued the state after finding out that they'd been removed from the voter rolls for having died, despite their not actually being dead.

#### Roll

A quantity of cloth wound into a cylindrical form.
A roll of carpeting; a roll of ribbon

#### Roll

A cylindrical twist of tobacco.

#### Roll

(obsolete) A part; an office; a duty; a role.

#### Roll

A measure of parchments, containing five dozen.

#### Roll

To cause to revolve by turning over and over; to move by turning on an axis; to impel forward by causing to turn over and over on a supporting surface; as, to roll a wheel, a ball, or a barrel.

#### Roll

To wrap round on itself; to form into a spherical or cylindrical body by causing to turn over and over; as, to roll a sheet of paper; to roll parchment; to roll clay or putty into a ball.

#### Roll

To bind or involve by winding, as in a bandage; to inwrap; - often with up; as, to roll up a parcel.

#### Roll

To drive or impel forward with an easy motion, as of rolling; as, a river rolls its waters to the ocean.
The flood of Catholic reaction was rolled over Europe.

#### Roll

To utter copiously, esp. with sounding words; to utter with a deep sound; - often with forth, or out; as, to roll forth some one's praises; to roll out sentences.
Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies.

#### Roll

To press or level with a roller; to spread or form with a roll, roller, or rollers; as, to roll a field; to roll paste; to roll steel rails, etc.

#### Roll

To move, or cause to be moved, upon, or by means of, rollers or small wheels.

#### Roll

To beat with rapid, continuous strokes, as a drum; to sound a roll upon.

#### Roll

To apply (one line or surface) to another without slipping; to bring all the parts of (one line or surface) into successive contact with another, in suck manner that at every instant the parts that have been in contact are equal.

#### Roll

To turn over in one's mind; to revolve.
Full oft in heart he rolleth up and downThe beauty of these florins new and bright.

#### Roll

To move, as a curved object may, along a surface by rotation without sliding; to revolve upon an axis; to turn over and over; as, a ball or wheel rolls on the earth; a body rolls on an inclined plane.
And her foot, look you, is fixed upon a spherical stone, which rolls, and rolls, and rolls.

#### Roll

To move on wheels; as, the carriage rolls along the street.

#### Roll

To be wound or formed into a cylinder or ball; as, the cloth rolls unevenly; the snow rolls well.

#### Roll

To fall or tumble; - with over; as, a stream rolls over a precipice.

#### Roll

To perform a periodical revolution; to move onward as with a revolution; as, the rolling year; ages roll away.

#### Roll

To turn; to move circularly.
And his red eyeballs roll with living fire.

#### Roll

To move, as waves or billows, with alternate swell and depression.
What different sorrows did within thee roll.

#### Roll

To incline first to one side, then to the other; to rock; as, there is a great difference in ships about rolling; in a general semse, to be tossed about.
Twice ten tempestuous nights I rolled.

#### Roll

To turn over, or from side to side, while lying down; to wallow; as, a horse rolls.

#### Roll

To spread under a roller or rolling-pin; as, the paste rolls well.

#### Roll

To beat a drum with strokes so rapid that they can scarcely be distinguished by the ear.

#### Roll

To make a loud or heavy rumbling noise; as, the thunder rolls.
Man shall not suffer his wife go roll about.

#### Roll

The act of rolling, or state of being rolled; as, the roll of a ball; the roll of waves.

#### Roll

That which rolls; a roller.

#### Roll

That which is rolled up; as, a roll of fat, of wool, paper, cloth, etc.
Busy angels spreadThe lasting roll, recording what we say.

#### Roll

Hence, an official or public document; a register; a record; also, a catalogue; a list.
The rolls of Parliament, the entry of the petitions, answers, and transactions in Parliament, are extant.
The roll and list of that army doth remain.

#### Roll

A kind of shortened raised biscuit or bread, often rolled or doubled upon itself.

#### Roll

A quantity of cloth wound into a cylindrical form; as, a roll of carpeting; a roll of ribbon.

#### Roll

The oscillating movement of a vessel from side to side, in sea way, as distinguished from the alternate rise and fall of bow and stern called pitching.

#### Roll

A heavy, reverberatory sound; as, the roll of cannon, or of thunder.

#### Roll

The uniform beating of a drum with strokes so rapid as scarcely to be distinguished by the ear.

#### Roll

Part; office; duty; rôle.

#### Roll

Rotary motion of an object around its own axis;
Wheels in axial rotation

#### Roll

A list of names;
His name was struck off the rolls

#### Roll

A long heavy sea wave as it advances towards the shore

#### Roll

Photographic film rolled up inside a container to protect it from light

#### Roll

A round shape formed by a series of concentric circles

#### Roll

A roll of currency notes (often taken as the resources of a person or business etc.);
He shot his roll on a bob-tailed nag

#### Roll

Small rounded bread either plain or sweet

#### Roll

A deep prolonged sound (as of thunder or large bells)

#### Roll

The sound of a drum (especially a snare drum) beaten rapidly and continuously

#### Roll

A document that can be rolled up (as for storage)

#### Roll

Anything rolled up in cylindrical form

#### Roll

The act of throwing dice

#### Roll

Walking with a rolling gait

#### Roll

A flight maneuver; aircraft rotates about its longitudinal axis without changing direction or losing altitude

#### Roll

The act of rolling something (as the ball in bowling)

#### Roll

Move by turning over or rotating;
The child rolled down the hill
Turn over on your left side

#### Roll

Move along on or as if on wheels or a wheeled vehicle;
The President's convoy rolled past the crowds

#### Roll

Occur in soft rounded shapes;
The hills rolled past

#### Roll

Flatten or spread with a roller;
Roll out the paper

#### Roll

Emit, produce, or utter with a deep prolonged reverberating sound;
The thunder rolled
Rolling drums

#### Roll

Wrap or coil around;
Twine the thread around the spool

#### Roll

Begin operating or running;
The cameras were rolling

#### Roll

Shape by rolling;
Roll a cigarette

#### Roll

Execute a roll, in tumbling;
The gymnasts rolled and jumped

#### Roll

Sell something to or obtain something from by energetic and especially underhanded activity

#### Roll

Move in a wavy pattern or with a rising and falling motion;
The curtains undulated
The waves rolled towards the beach

#### Roll

Move about aimlessly or without any destination, often in search of food or employment;
The gypsies roamed the woods
Roving vagabonds
The wandering Jew
The cattle roam across the prairie
The laborers drift from one town to the next
They rolled from town to town

#### Roll

Move, rock, or sway from side to side;
The ship rolled on the heavy seas

#### Roll

Cause to move by turning over or in a circular manner of as if on an axis;
She rolled the ball
They rolled their eyes at his words

#### Roll

Pronounce with a roll, of the phoneme /r/;
She rolls her r's

#### Roll

Boil vigorously;
The liquid was seething
The water rolled

#### Roll

Take the shape of a roll or cylinder;
The carpet rolled out
Yarn rolls well

#### Roll

Show certain properties when being rolled;
The carpet rolls unevenly

#### Roll

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

#### Roll

To flatten or spread with a rolling pin.
She will roll the dough for the cookies.

#### Roll

A list or register.
The teacher checked the roll for absent students.

## FAQs

#### What does "rotate shifts" imply?

It means workers take turns working different shift hours.

#### What does rotate mean?

Rotate means to turn around a central point in a circular motion.

#### How is roll used in filmmaking?

"Roll camera" indicates the start of filming or recording.

#### Can something both rotate and roll simultaneously?

Yes, like a car tire which rotates on its axis and rolls on the ground.

#### Can roll mean a list?

Yes, like a classroom roll where student names are listed.

#### What's the role of a rolling pin?

It's used to roll and flatten dough.

#### How is roll different from rotate?

Roll means to move by turning over and over on an axis.

#### Is rotation only in a horizontal plane?

No, rotation can occur in any plane around a central axis.

#### How does the Earth rotate?

The Earth rotates on its axis from west to east.

#### Why might a ship roll?

Due to waves and turbulence in water.

#### Why do chefs rotate food in the oven?

To ensure even cooking from all sides.

#### What's a crop rotation?

It's a method where different crops are planted in succession to improve soil health.

#### How do wheels function?

Wheels rotate on their axis and roll on surfaces to move vehicles.

#### What does "on a roll" mean?

It's an idiom meaning someone is having consistent success.

#### What's a roll call?

It's a reading aloud of a list of names to check presence.

#### Can "rotate" be used in technology?

Yes, like rotating a digital image or screen orientation.

#### Can rotation imply a scheduled change?

Yes, such as when employees rotate job roles.

#### Can roll mean movement in music?

Yes, like a drum roll which is a series of quick beats.

#### How do planets rotate?

Planets rotate on their axes, and the time taken for one complete rotation defines their day length.

#### Why do objects rotate?

They might be influenced by forces, like torque, causing them to turn around an axis.