Ankyrin (ANK) repeats are one of the most common amino acid sequence motifs that mediate interactions between proteins of myriad sizes, shapes and functions. We assess their widespread abundance in Bacteria and Archaea for the first time and demonstrate in Bacteria that lifestyle, rather than phylogenetic history, is a predictor of ANK repeat abundance. Unrelated organisms that forge facultative and obligate symbioses with eukaryotes show enrichment for ANK repeats in comparison to free-living bacteria. The reduced genomes of obligate intracellular bacteria remarkably contain a higher fraction of ANK repeat proteins than other lifestyles, and the number of ANK repeats in each protein is augmented in comparison to other bacteria. Taken together, these results reevaluate the concept that ANK repeats are signature features of eukaryotic proteins and support the hypothesis that intracellular bacteria broadly employ ANK repeats for structure-function relationships with the eukaryotic host cell.