I have some question about a questionable headline:

Obama to say U.S. will lead broad coalition to roll back Islamic State

According to dictionaries, "roll back" means to undo an action that was done. The "Islamic State" is not not an action. It is an organization or some pseudo-government in the middle east. So, could the headline be poorly written?

  • Duplicate of meatie's original deleted question: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/33271/roll-back-islamic-state
    – user230
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 4:22
  • But it is an organization or pseudo-gorvernment that has come into being through some action of theirs. The US intends to undo that action so that they cease to exist.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 4:28
  • This Wikipedia article might be helpful - Rollback, also the definition in M-W Rollback "the act of reversing or undoing something".
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 4:48
  • Discussion on meta.
    – user230
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 7:54

2 Answers 2


According to The Free Dictionary, "roll back" can also mean to return something to someone by rotating it, as with a wheel or a ball, or moving it back on wheels. There is also the sense of "rolling back" the mileage on a car's odometer. I understood the headline in the sense of moving the Islamic State's power back to 0, or back from prominence to non-existence.


Another meaning of "roll back something" is to limit or reduce the effect or influence of something (Please refer to Cambridge dictionary - English grammar today). I think the statement is quite clear with this meaning of roll back.

  • Indeed. In the UK, right-wing politicians often like to say they will roll back the state (i.e. - reduce the extent to which government bureaucracy impinges on the citizenry). Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 16:13

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