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English and Scottish: occupational name for the gatekeeper of a walled town or city, or the doorkeeper of a great house, castle, or monastery, from Middle English porter ‘doorkeeper’, ‘gatekeeper’ (Old French portier). The office often came with accommodation, lands, and other privileges for the bearer, and in some cases was hereditary, especially in the case of a royal castle. As an American surname, this has absorbed cognates and equivalents in other European languages, for example German(see