DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are one of the most dangerous forms of DNA lesion that can result in genomic instability and cell death. Therefore cells have developed elaborate DSB-repair pathways to maintain the integrity of genomic DNA. There are two major pathways for the repair of DSBs in eukaryotes: homologous recombination and non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ). Until very recently, the NHEJ pathway had been thought to be restricted to the eukarya. However, an evolutionarily related NHEJ apparatus has now been identified and characterized in the prokarya. Here we review the recent discoveries concerning bacterial NHEJ and discuss the possible origins of this repair system. We also examine the insights gained from the recent cellular and biochemical studies of this DSB-repair process and discuss the possible cellular roles of an NHEJ pathway in the life-cycle of prokaryotes and phages.