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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?

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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.

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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). – FumbleFingers Feb 15 '15 at 16:13

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