Nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) refers to a set of genome maintenance pathways in which two DNA double-strand break (DSB) ends are (re)joined by apposition, processing, and ligation without the use of extended homology to guide repair. Canonical NHEJ (c-NHEJ) is a well-defined pathway with clear roles in protecting the integrity of chromosomes when DSBs arise. Recent advances have revealed much about the identity, structure, and function of c-NHEJ proteins, but many questions exist regarding their concerted action in the context of chromatin. Alternative NHEJ (alt-NHEJ) refers to more recently described mechanism(s) that repair DSBs in less-efficient backup reactions. There is great interest in defining alt-NHEJ more precisely, including its regulation relative to c-NHEJ, in light of evidence that alt-NHEJ can execute chromosome rearrangements. Progress toward these goals is reviewed.