14 Hidden Details About Derek Shepherd That Everyone Missed

Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) had been one of the most popular leading men on television for years. His equation with Meredith Grey and his kids, alongside his glamorous professional image, made him a beloved character on the hit medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy.

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It’s been several years now since Derek was involved in a shocking accident and passed away, 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 it be through Zola, Addison and Amelia’s memories). With 251 episodes under his belt, the viewers did learn a lot about the neurosurgeon so it wouldn’t be a total surprise if there were some details about his life that went amiss.


Updated on February 3rd, 2022 by Kayleigh Banks: With Grey’s Anatomy having officially been renewed for season 19, many fans are excited to see what this and next year will have in store for the surgeons of Grey Sloan Memorial.

Since many fans believe that the show will be coming to a close soon, there are a few that are wondering if some fan-favorite characters (such as Derek Shepherd) will be making an appearance again. After all, the writers had included a lot of hidden details in the season 17 beach scenes, which gave some insight into Derek’s character, so fans wouldn’t mind it 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 completely sure how Derek and Mark met growing up, the show did reveal that Derek was older than Mark by two years (as confirmed by Mark’s death card in “Gone, Gone, Gone” and the International Business Times).

It certainly makes a lot of sense when the fans take a look at the sibling-like dynamic between the two characters, especially since Mark was more immature and would always go to Derek for advice. It was also implied that Mark viewed Derek as an older brother as he was always desperate for his blessings and tried to compete with him.

Derek’s Death Was Foreshadowed

An image of Derek and Meredith standing next to each other in Grey's Anatomy

Before Derek sadly passed away in “How To Save A Life,” some fans might not have realized that the writers had foreshadowed his death earlier. In the season 5 premiere, Meredith was startled when she had a nightmare about Derek driving in a car crash and there was nothing the surgeons could do to save him.

Fast forward six years, and this was exactly what happened as Derek’s car had collided with a truck as he was driving to the airport. While it was a scene that broke the hearts of many, many Grey’s Anatomy fans would agree that the foreshadowing worked effectively in this instance as it reminded them that not even the main characters were safe from death.

Derek Owned A Motorcycle

Greys Anatomy season 17 Derek Shepherd beach

Right after Meredith discovered that Derek was married to Addison, she began to doubt their relationship since she realized that 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 got rid of it because it had left him with a scar on his head.

Given that he was a neurosurgeon, it’s not surprising that he gave it up as he was seen to treat several patients over the years who had been in motorcycle accidents. It’s not the first time the show has attempted to highlight the dangers of the vehicle either as Cristina had given hers up once she realized how many people died as a result of a person crashing one.

There Was Parallels To Derek & Meredith’s Post-It Note Wedding In Season 17

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

After making a departure in season 11, Derek made his return to the show six years later in one of Meredith’s memorable dream sequences. In one of the best scenes, Meredith and Derek were seen to get the wedding their children had always dreamed of, with Derek and Meredith making new vows.

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

Derek’s Success Rate In Surgeries Wasn’t As High As Amelia’s

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

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

Still, it’s quite a remarkable achievement, especially since Derek and Amelia’s branch of surgery is one of the most dangerous fields (and they took on “impossible cases”). It’s one of the reasons why Derek ended up on the cover of many magazines and on the radar of the president.

Derek Was A Whisky Person

Before he moved to Seattle, Derek used to be quite a hotshot neurosurgeon in New York. He had a thriving practice and a beautiful wife who was herself a successful obstetrician until everything fell apart.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that he preferred single-malt scotch as his choice of liquor, a drink that is classy enough to be on par with the character’s elegance. Just like Meredith who loves her tequila, Derek’s go-to drink is scotch, although this fact is only mentioned once, as such.

Derek’s Favorite Breakfast Is Muesli

When Derek was practically living with Meredith at the very beginning of the series before Addison appeared on the scene and their relationship hit the rocks, Derek apparently had Muesli for breakfast every day.

This might have escaped the audience’s notice for it is trivia, after all, but Meredith’s roommates at the time, George and Izzie, definitely did not miss this detail.

Derek Loved Hemingway

In season 1’s “Save Me,” Derek also tells Meredith a few facts about himself after she pesters him for a day.

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At this time, he mentions that his favorite novel is “The Sun Also Rises.” This is a book by Ernest Hemingway, set against the backdrop of the First World War. Ironically, it can also been seen as a metaphor that initially fit Derek and Meredith’s relationship as they both admitted that they loved one another, but other obstacles seemed to get in the way of them being together.

Derek’s Ferry Cap Got Passed On To Meredith

For those who don’t remember, Derek had a thing for ferry boats. He told Meredith in one of the earliest episodes of the series that he might actually like Seattle simply because of the ferry boats even though he wasn’t planning on liking it there. Of course, this was probably also a metaphor for Meredith herself.

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

Derek Had His Superstitions

Derek had his share of superstitions. The cap might or might not have been a superstition, but what was definitely superstitious was his signature dialogue at the start of every surgery, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives.”

In fact, the writers sneaked in the line in his very last episode, when he single-handedly saved a bunch of people on the roadside who met with an accident right in front of him. Before he brings back each accident victim from the brink of death, he utters his signature line, one last time. This way, the writers came full circle and gave him one of the best Grey’s Anatomy character arcs.

Derek’s Dad Was Shot In Front Of Him

A young Derek witnessed his father being shot in front of him. His little sister Amelia was with him at the time.

The brilliant neurosurgeon’s dad was killed for his watch by a gun-wielding man inside his own store. It was presumably because Derek failed to save his dad that he became a doctor. He also vowed to take Amelia under his wing as she grew up because he felt he needed to look out for her the most, out 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 set up, naturally. Meredith was engaged to Alex, Ellis Grey was alive, married to Richard, and practically running the hospital, and a grumpy-looking Derek was married to Addison. The alternate reality did seem to illustrate how life would have been like for Derek if he had decided to remain in a marriage to Addison, further illustrating that he and Meredith were meant to be.

Izzie & 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 had realized that she was in love with Alex after all.

When Izzie happened to tell Derek that she saw Alex in her future, McDreamy had an instant brainwave. He and Meredith had never really jumped onto the wedding bandwagon anyway, but Izzie loved weddings. Derek suggested that Izzie and Alex get married in the church that had been booked for him and Meredith, with Izzie looking beautiful in the white dress that had been purchased for Meredith. So, at the end of the day, it was thanks to Derek that Alex and Izzie got married.

Derek Loved Fly Fishing

Derek was shown to enjoy fishing in his leisure time. It was, in fact, one of the little quirks he had, which ended up exasperating his guests who got bored of having fish for breakfast every day. However, given how strenuous the job could be, it’s not surprising that he looked for something anti-climatic and peaceful.

His interest in fly fishing was also displayed in season 17 too when Meredith envisioned him on the beach in her dream sequences, signifying that he seemed to have found peace and was happy in the afterlife (or that was what Meredith believed).

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