Role vs. Roll: What’s the Difference?

English has many words which sound the same, but are spelled differently. These words are called homophones.

Roll and role are prominent homophones that, while they are pronounced the same, nonetheless have separate meanings. It’s easy to confuse these two words, given their multiple uses and identical pronunciations.

Many beginning writers and learners of English wonder whether to use roll or role in their writing. This article can help you learn the difference between these two words, and to know in which contexts they should each be used.

What is the Difference Between Role and Roll?

In this article, I will compare role vs. roll. I will use each word in an example sentence, so you can see their proper contexts. Plus, I will also show you a useful trick to help you decide whether to use role or roll in your writing.

When to Use Role

Role versus rollWhat does role mean? A role is a noun that means a part to play or a job to do.

An actor might have a starring role in a summer blockbuster, or a valued employee might move into a more prestigious role at his or her company.

Here are some examples,

  • Julia Roberts well known for playing the role of Erin Brockovich in the eponymous film.
  • In his new role as production manager, Blake will oversee all day-to-day operations of the shop floor.
  • In an emotional and at times contentious news conference, Girardi fully embraced his role as the villain, again justifying his decision to bench Rodriguez in the first two games of the Yankees’ series against the Boston Red Sox. –The Wall Street Journal

When to Use Roll

Define roll and define roleWhat does roll mean? There are many different ways to use roll. Roll can be a noun that refers to a food item, like in the following examples,

  • The woman asked her husband to run to the store and pick up some dinner rolls.
  • Bart loves jelly rolls.
  • In the fresh and delicious Maine-style lobster roll, heaps of lobster chunks, tossed with bits of celery and just a touch of mayonnaise, spilled out of a grilled white bun. –The New York Times

A roll can also be a list of all a group’s members.

Here is an example,

  • The teacher began taking roll, but the students would not settle down.

Roll can also be a verb, where it means to move by turning something over itself or to bend something over itself to form a cylindrical shape.

See the following sentences,

  • Jim rolled up the newspaper to swat the fly.
  • The children rolled down the hill, laughing on their way down.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Definition of role definition Here is a helpful trick to remember roll vs. role.

Role is always a noun. It means a part in a movie or play, or a job to do.

Roll has many senses as a noun, including food items and lists of names.

You can remember to use roll as a list of names by thinking about its verb form. Imagine writing all of the names on the list onto a piece of paper, and then rolling it up. Hence, you would roll up the roll.


Is it role or roll? Role and roll both have multiple meanings.

Role is defined as a part or function.

Roll can be a food item or a list of names. Roll can also be a verb that means to turn something over itself into a tight bundle.

You can remember that roll is a list of names by imagining yourself writing that list down on paper, and rolling it up into a bundle. This memory tool should help remind you not to use role in either of these contexts.