a former association of maritime towns in SE England: originally (1278) numbering five (Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich) and receiving special privileges in return for aiding in the naval defense of England.
an association of ports on the SE coast of England, originally consisting of Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich, which from late Anglo-Saxon times provided ships for the king's service in return for the profits of justice in their courts. The Cinque Ports declined with the growth of other ports and surrendered their charters in 1685
late 12c. (in Anglo-Latin), late 13c. (in English), from Latin quinque portus (see cinque + port (n.1)). Hastings, Sandwich, Dover, Romney, and Hythe, granted special privileges from the crown in return for defense of the Channel in the days before England had a navy.