The name Portia ranked 1151st in popularity for females of all ages in a sample of the 1990 US Census.
Though this name has fluctuated in use, it has been quietly present throughout the last century.
This ancient Roman family name may well derive from porcus (''pig''), and so serves as a reminder of the Roman aristocracy's agricultural roots.
Portia was the name of the valiant wife of Brutus, the most distinguished of those men who felt compelled to assassinate Julius Caesar to save the Roman Republic. She is an important character in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, but not so prominent as a fictional namesake of hers in The Merchant of Venice. That Portia, disguised as a male lawyer, successfully pleads for her husband's life with the speech beginning ''The quality of mercy is not strained...''
In Julius Caesar, this is the name of Brutus'' devoted wife; in The Merchant of Venice, a character with this name impersonates a lawyer to argue for her lover''s life (see list of Shakespearean Characters)