early 13c., "rolled-up piece of parchment or paper" (especially one inscribed with an official record), from Old French rolle "document, parchment scroll, decree" (12c.), from Medieval Latin rotulus "a roll of paper" (source also of Spanish rollo, Italian rullo), from Latin rotula "small wheel," diminutive of rota "wheel" (see rotary).
Meaning "a register, list, catalogue" is from late 14c., common from c. 1800. Meaning "dough which is rolled before baking" is first recorded mid-15c. Sense of "act of rolling" is from 1743. Meaning "quantity of material rolled up" is from late 14c.; meaning "quantity of paper money" is from 1846; sense of "quantity of (rolled) film" is from 1890. Meaning "act of sexual intercourse" is attested from 1942 (compare roll in the hay), from roll (v.). Dutch rol, German Rolle, Danish rulle, etc. are from French.
c. 1300 "turn over and over, move by rotating" (intransitive); late 14c. as "to move (something) by turning it over and over;" from Old French roeller "roll, wheel round" (Modern French rouler), from Medieval Latin rotulare, from Latin rotula, diminutive of rota "wheel" (see rotary). Related: Rolled; rolling.
Of sounds (such as thunder) somehow suggestive of a rolling ball, 1590s; of a drum from 1680s. Of eyes, from late 14c. Of a movie camera, "to start filming," from 1938. Sense of "rob a stuporous drunk" is from 1873, from the action required to get to his pockets. To roll up "gather, congregate" is from 1861, originally Australian. To be on a roll is from 1976. To roll with the punches is a metaphor from boxing (1940). Heads will roll is a Hitlerism:
If our movement is victorious there will be a revolutionary tribunal which will punish the crimes of November 1918. Then decapitated heads will roll in the sand.