14 Hidden Details About Derek Shepherd That Everyone Missed

Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) was one of the most popular protagonists on television for many years. His comparison to Meredith Gray and his children, in addition to his glamorous professional image, made him a much-loved character in the popular medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy.

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It’s been several years now since Derek was involved in a shocking accident and died, but since then the show has continued to keep his legacy alive through his children and by revealing new bits of information about his life (whether through Zola, Addison and Amelia’s Memories). With 251 episodes under their belt, viewers learned a lot about the neurosurgeon, so it wouldn’t come as a total surprise if some details about his life went awry.


Updated Feb 3, 2022 by Kayleigh Banks: Now that Grey’s Anatomy has been officially renewed for Season 19, many fans are excited to see what this year and next will have in store for the surgeons at Gray Sloan Memorial.

Since many fans think the show will end soon, a few are left wondering if some favorite characters (like Derek Shepherd) will be making a comeback. After all, the writers had included a lot of hidden details in Season 17’s beach scenes that provided some insight into Derek’s character, so fans wouldn’t mind if the writers decided to do something similar again and reveal new details about him.

Derek was older than Mark

An image of Mark and Derek laughing together in Grey's Anatomy

While fans aren’t quite sure how Derek and Mark met growing up, the show did reveal that Derek was two years older than Mark (as confirmed by Mark’s death card in “Gone, Gone, Gone” and the International Business Times).

It certainly makes sense when fans look at the sibling dynamic between the two characters, especially since Mark was more immature and would always go to Derek for advice. It was also suggested that Mark regarded Derek as an older brother, as he was always desperate for his blessings and trying to compete with him.

Derek’s death was foreshadowed

An image of Derek and Meredith standing side by side in Grey's Anatomy

Before Derek sadly passed away in “How To Save A Life,” some fans may not have realized the writers had previously announced his death. In the Season 5 premiere, Meredith was shocked when she had a nightmare about Derek getting into a car accident and that the surgeons couldn’t do anything to save him.

Fast forward six years, and this was exactly what happened when Derek’s car collided with a truck on his way to the airport. Although it was a scene that broke the hearts of many Grey’s Anatomy fans would agree that the foreshadowing worked effectively in this case, as it reminded them that even the main characters weren’t safe from death.

Derek had a motorcycle

Grays Anatomy Season 17 Derek Shepherd Beach

Immediately after Meredith found out that Derek was married to Addison, she began to doubt their relationship because she realized there is so much she didn’t know about him (“Save Me”). In his response, one of the things Derek told her was that he had a motorcycle, but soon sold it because he had a scar on his head.

Considering he was a neurosurgeon, it’s not surprising that he gave up, as over the years he treated several patients who had suffered motorcycle accidents. It’s not the first time the show has tried to highlight the dangers of the vehicle, as Cristina had given up on hers when she realized how many people died as a result of a person crashing into one.

There were parallels to Derek and Meredith’s post-it wedding in Season 17

An image of Derek and Meredith having a beach wedding in Grey's Anatomy

After leaving in Season 11, Derek returned to the show six years later in one of Meredith’s memorable dream scenes. In one of the best scenes, Meredith and Derek got the wedding their kids had always dreamed of, with Derek and Meredith taking new vows.

However, some fans may not have realized that the dialogue in the vow renewal paralleled that of season 5 (“What do we want to promise each other?”). Knowing this, their wedding scenes were made all the more endearing and purer.

Derek’s surgery success rate was not as high as Amelia’s

An image of Derek and Amelia talking to each other in Grey's Anatomy

While many fans believe that Derek was one of the best neurosurgeons in Grey’s Anatomy, he may not have been as good as his sister. According to the cases they took and their records, Richard Webber found that Amelia had a better success rate than Derek (with 0.9% of her patients dying during/after surgery, while Dereks was 1.3%).

Still, it’s a pretty remarkable feat, especially since Derek and Amelia’s branch of surgery is one of the most dangerous areas (and they’ve taken on “impossible cases”). It’s one of the reasons Derek ended up on the cover of many magazines and on the president’s radar.

Derek was a whiskey person

Before moving to Seattle, Derek was quite the hotshot neurosurgeon in New York. He had a thriving practice and a beautiful woman who was a successful midwife herself until everything fell apart.

It’s no surprise, then, that he preferred single malt whiskey as his drink choice, a drink stylish enough to align with the elegance of the character. Like Meredith who loves her tequila, Derek’s go-to drink is whiskey, although this fact is mentioned as such only once.

Derek’s favorite breakfast is muesli

When Derek practically lived with Meredith at the start of the series before Addison came on the scene and their relationship came to an end, Derek apparently had granola for breakfast every day.

This may have escaped the public’s attention because it’s trivia after all, but Meredith’s roommates at the time, George and Izzie, certainly didn’t miss this detail.

Derek loved Hemingway

In Season 1’s “Save Me”, Derek also tells Meredith a few facts about herself after pestering him for a day.

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At the moment, he mentions that his favorite novel is “The Sun Also Rises.” This is a book by Ernest Hemingway, set against the background of the First World War. Ironically, it could also be seen as a metaphor that initially fitted into Derek and Meredith’s relationship, as they both admitted they loved each other, but other obstacles seemed to get in the way of their being together.

Derek’s Ferry Hat Has Been Passed On To Meredith

For those who don’t remember, Derek had a thing for ferries. He told Meredith in one of the first episodes of the series that he might like Seattle simply because of the ferries, even though he didn’t intend to like it there. Of course, this was probably also a metaphor for Meredith herself.

Derek also had a scrub cap that he wore during his surgeries, with pictures of ferries on it. After his devastating death, the creators added an emotional touch when they showed Meredith with his cap, presumably to keep a piece of him with her as she performed her surgeries.

Derek had his superstitions

Derek had his share of superstitions. The cap may or may not have been a superstition, but what was absolutely superstitious was his signature dialogue at the start of each operation: “It’s a beautiful day to save lives.”

In fact, the writers snuck in line on his very last episode, when he single-handedly rescued a bunch of people on the road who had an accident right before his eyes. Before bringing every accident victim back from the brink of death, he utters his signature phrase one last time. In this way the writers came around and gave him one of the best Grey’s Anatomy character arches.

Derek’s father was shot in front of his eyes

A young Derek watched as his father was shot before his eyes. His sister Amelia was with him at the time.

The brilliant neurosurgeon’s father was murdered in front of his watch by a man with a gun in his own shop. It was presumably because Derek failed to save his father that he became a doctor. He also vowed to take Amelia under his wing as she grew up, as he felt he should take care of her the most, of all his sisters.

McDreamy was called McDreary in an alternate universe

For those who only remember him as McDreamy, it turns out that Derek’s nickname in an alternate universe episode was McDreary.

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Everything was different in the alternate universe, of course. Meredith was engaged to Alex, Ellis Gray was alive, married to Richard and practically ran the hospital, and grumpy-looking Derek was married to Addison. The alternate reality seemed to illustrate what life would have been like for Derek had he decided to remain in a marriage with Addison, further illustrating that he and Meredith were meant to be.

Izzie and Alex’s wedding was Derek’s idea

One of the most heartfelt moments in the series came in the form of Alex and Izzie’s wedding in Season 5. Izzie was struggling with cancer at the time and realized she was in love with Alex after all.

When Izzie told Derek that she saw Alex in her future, McDreamy immediately got a brainwave. He and Meredith had never really jumped on the wedding chariot anyway, but Izzie loved weddings. Derek suggested that Izzie and Alex get married in the church reserved for him and Meredith, with Izzie looking gorgeous in the white dress bought for Meredith. So in the end it was thanks to Derek that Alex and Izzie got married.

Derek loved fly fishing

Derek turned out to enjoy fishing in his spare time. It was, in fact, one of his little quirks that eventually annoyed his guests who were bored of eating fish for breakfast every day. But given how strenuous the work can be, it’s hardly surprising that he was looking for something anti-climatic and peaceful.

His interest in fly fishing was also shown in Season 17 when Meredith provided him with her dream sequences on the beach, indicating that he seemed to have found peace and happy in the afterlife (or that was what Meredith believed).

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