The focal spot of a linear accelerator is often considered to have a fully stable position. In practice, however, the beam control loop of a linear accelerator needs to stabilize after the beam is turned on. As a result, some motion of the focal spot might occur during the start-up phase of irradiation. When acquiring portal images, this motion will affect the projected position of anatomy and field edges, especially when low exposures are used. In this paper, the motion of the focal spot and the effect of this motion on portal image analysis are quantified. A slightly tilted narrow slit phantom was placed at the isocenter of several linear accelerators and images were acquired (3.5 frames per second) by means of an amorphous silicon flat panel imager positioned approximately 0.7 m below the isocenter. The motion of the focal spot was determined by converting the tilted slit images to subpixel accurate line spread functions. The error in portal image analysis due to focal spot motionwas estimated by a subtraction of the relative displacement of the projected slit from the relative displacement of the field edges. It was found that the motion of the focal spot depends on the control system and design of the accelerator. The shift of the focal spot at the start of irradiation ranges between 0.05-0.7 mm in the gun-target (GT) direction. In the left-right (AB) direction the shift is generally smaller. The resulting error in portal image analysis due to focal spotmotion ranges between 0.05-1.1 mm for a dose corresponding to two monitor units (MUs). For 20 MUs, the effect of the focal spot motion reduces to 0.01-0.3 mm. The error in portal image analysis due to focal spot motion can be reduced by reducing the applied dose rate.