late 13c., "thing that rolls, roller for moving heavy objects;" late 14c., "a rolling pin," agent noun from roll (v.). The sense of "heavy cylinder for smoothing the ground is from 1520s.
Meaning "hair-curler" is attested from 1795; as a printer's tool, by 1790; as a device for applying paint, etc. to a flat surface, by 1955. The meaning "long, heavy, swelling wave" is by 1829. In combinations, it often means "done on or by means of roller-skates," for example roller derby (by 1936; see derby); roller hockey (1926); roller-disco (1978). Disparaging religious term holy roller is attested from 1842, American English, from the alleged rolling in the church aisles done by those in the Spirit.