A porter, also called a bearer, is a person who carries objects.
Porters were used as human beasts of burden commonly in the ancient world, when labour was generally cheap, especially in societies that depended on slavery. The ancient Sumerians, for example, enslaved women to carry wool and flax. The use of bearers for litters to carry persons of rank or religious idols, especially in formal processions, seems to have extended their practical function into that of ceremonial status symbol in the often conservative protocol of court and cult, a role continued into the 20th century with the papal sedia gestatoria and possibly echoed in the modern funeral pallbearer.
Porters who work at railway stations in India are called coolies, a term for unskilled Asian labourers. The term "coolie" was also used in China for porters in general. The term "porter" is also used in general for hotel, railway and airport employees who carry luggage; the respective industry-specific terms are bellhop, redcap and skycap. Railroad porters once wore distinctive red-colored caps for easy identification, contrasting with the caps in blue or other colors, normally worn by other train personnel.
In many public places such as airports, border crossings, sea ports and railway stations, porters are often a nuisance to tourists, taking their luggage without permission and demanding excessive fees.