Cyanate is utilized by many microbes as an organic nitrogen source. The key enzyme for cyanate metabolism is cyanase, converting cyanate to ammonium and carbon dioxide. Although the cyanase gene cynS has been identified in many species, the diversity, prevalence, and expression of cynS in marine microbial communities remains poorly understood. Here, based on the full-length cDNA sequence of a dinoflagellate cynS and 260 homologs across the tree of life, we extend the conserved nature of cyanases by the identification of additional ultra-conserved residues as part of the modeled holoenzyme structure. Our phylogenetic analysis showed that horizontal gene transfer of cynS appears to be more prominent than previously reported for bacteria, archaea, chlorophytes, and metazoans. Quantitative analyses of marine planktonic metagenomes revealed that cynS is as prevalent as ureC (urease subunit alpha), suggesting that cyanate plays an important role in nitrogen metabolism of marine microbes. Highly abundant cynS transcripts from phytoplankton and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria identified in global ocean metatranscriptomes indicate that cyanases potentially occupy a key position in the marine nitrogen cycle by facilitating photosynthetic assimilation of organic N and its remineralisation to NO3 by the activity of nitrifying bacteria.