Hayate the Combat Butler is about Hayate Ayasaki an unlucky sixteen years old teenager who worked since the age of eight to make ends meet due to his parents' irresponsible behavior. He always moves from job to job, as he is fired when he is discovered to be underage. One day he finds out that his parents ran away from home, leaving behind a huge gambling debt on his shoulders. While running away from the debt collectors, he ends up meeting Nagi Sanzen'in, a thirteen year old girl who is the only heir of the rich Sanzen'in estate. She is an extremely irresponsible spoiled little girl who doesn't know how to do much on her own besides read manga and play video games. She also has an otaku-level hobby with manga and anime, and draws her own, very strange, manga, called End of the Century Legend: Magical Destroy. She is good at finances and likes to learn. She has a pet tiger named Tama, who has gained the ability to speak like a human being through watching extensive amounts of anime with Nagi. Due to a misunderstanding, Nagi ends up falling in love with Hayate. After he rescues Nagi from some kidnappers, she hires Hayate as her new butler.
Aside from performing his ordinary duties as a butler, Hayate must struggle to protect Nagi from harm, a complicated task as her life is at all times in danger because she is the aim of other individuals coveting her family's wealth, and sometimes deal with some extravagant requests from her, oblivious to Nagi's true feelings for him.