Names for boys that are considered the most popular depends on how you slice it. You can have endless fun playing with the data by year, by decade, by ethnicity or by region. Some names have hot streaks of popularity before going cold, while others remain steady classic picks.
Top Name of the Century
According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the name Michael took the top spot as the most-frequently given boy's name per year 44 times during the 100-year period from 1913 to 2012. You can also sort the Social Security's data by decade or -- for extra regional interest -- by state. The name Michael is taken from that of an archangel mentioned in the Bible. It means "who is like God?" and has graced countless well-known figures, including basketball player Michael Jordan, mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, award-winning actor Michael Caine and author Michael Chabon.
Top Name of the Decade -- And Then Some
The name Jacob has held the annual top spot in popularity 14 years in a row as of 2012. Jacob is another biblical name, meaning "he who supplants" -- Jacob having supplanted his older brother Esau as heir to Isaac and Rebecca. Famous figures bearing the name Jacob include folklorist Jacob Grimm, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and photographer-journalist Jacob Riis.
Top Trendy Name
The name Mason was nowhere near the top 25 boy names given in the U.S. until the year 2010, when it suddenly reached the number 12 spot. Since then its popularity has only climbed, reaching the number two spot (behind Jacob) in 2011 and 2012. Mason is what is referred to as a vocational name, a mason being someone who works with stone; it's also common as a last name and increasingly as a girl's first name. Famous Masons include the fictional detective Perry Mason and musician Mason Jennings.
Top African-American Baby Names for Boys
Stats on most popular baby names change significantly when you factor in ethnicity. The top African-American baby boy name for 2010 was DeMarco, meaning "son of Marco" and borne by football player DeMarco Murray. Runners-up included Dion and its variations Deon and Deion, Malik, Darius, Chikae and Tai.
Top Latino Baby Boy Names
Santiago was the most popular boy's baby name among Latino parents in 2011 and 2012. Santiago is Spanish for "St. James," the patron saint of Spain. Coincidentally, another form of the name James is Jacob, the most popular overall name in the U.S. for many years now. Chilean-born actor Santiago Cabrera bears this name. Other popular Spanish names for boys include Sebastian, Matias and Mateo, Nicolas, Daniel, Alejandro and Diego.