Dean Winchester was created by Eric Kripke, creator and original showrunner of Supernatural, when he pitched a show to the WB about two brothers who investigate the supernatural. Dean's name is a homage to Jack Kerouac's road-trip novel On the Road, tying into Kripke's concept for an Americana road-trip television series. It was originally intended for the brothers' last name to be "Harrison" as a nod to actor Harrison Ford, as Kripke wanted Dean to have the "devil-may-care swagger of Han Solo". However, there was a Sam Harrison living in Kansas, so the name had to be changed for legal reasons. Combining his interest in the Winchester Mystery House and his desire to give the series the feel of "a modern-day Western", Kripke settled on the surname of "Winchester". Dean and his brother Sam are from Lawrence, Kansas, due to its closeness to Stull Cemetery, a location famous for its urban legends. Jensen Ackles, who portrays Dean Winchester, was originally asked to audition for the role of Sam, but preferred the character of Dean after reading the script.
Dean Winchester was born on January 24, 1979 to John and Mary Winchester in Lawrence, Kansas. He is the couple's first child, four years older than his younger brother, Sam. He is named after his maternal grandmother, Deanna Campbell. On November 2, 1983, Mary was killed in Sam's nursery by the demon Azazel, and in the ensuing fire Dean was tasked with carrying Sam out to safety while John unsuccessfully tried to rescue Mary. Since then, Dean has felt responsible for Sam and was always given the job to take care of him while they were growing up.
John began investigating the cause of Mary's death and in that course learned about the supernatural and the people who hunted them. John became a hunter himself, and trained Dean to be one as well, though both hid the supernatural from Sam until he was 8 years old. The Winchesters constantly moved around the country, living in motels and the homes of John's hunter friends. Dean had a large hand in raising Sam due to John's constantly being away to hunt. When Dean was 16, he was arrested for stealing and spent time in a boy's home where he had the opportunity to go to a regular school, though eventually Dean chose to return to John and Sam.
Prior to the pilot of the series, Sam left John and Dean to pursue his own life away from the supernatural. John and Dean continued to hunt together and traveled all the way through the United States.
Dean is known for handling a large number of weaponry, and his signature looks are black shoes, a dark leather jacket and dark shirts with dark blue jeans. He is also known for driving a signature black 1967 Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe, in which he occasionally sleeps in and he has a huge stash of guns in the trunk.
Dean is 26 years old when the series begins and has been allowed by John to hunt by himself. In the first episode, Dean goes to Sam, whom he hasn't seen for a few years, and asks for help finding John, who has gone missing. The pair are initially unsuccessful, and at the end of the first episode, Sam's girlfriend Jessica Moore dies the same way their mother did. Sam joins Dean on the road, hunting various supernatural creatures, tracking down their father and searching for the culprit behind the deaths of their mother and Jessica. After eventually reuniting with their father and coming into possession of the Colt, they prepare to strike back against the Demon, a powerful demon with yellow eyes known as Azazel. Failing to kill him, they are rammed into by a semitruck, sending Dean into a coma. Flatlining, Dean dies but is saved from death at the last second when John makes a deal with the Demon to save his life. After John's soul is taken by the Demon to Hell, Sam and Dean start hunting the Demon, who eventually kidnaps Sam. In a turn of events, Sam is stabbed and killed, forcing Dean to make a deal to save his brother's life. Given a year on life, Dean and Sam are unable to stop the Demon from opening a gate to Hell and freeing Lilith. However, their father escapes as well and gives them the chance they need to kill the Yellow Eyed Demon.
While trying to cope with his impending death and make the best of his final year, Dean begins to start hunting the freed Demons. Meeting a seemingly helpful demon Ruby, Dean learns that he too may become a demon himself if he burns in Hell too long. Learning Lilith to have taken the throne of Hell from Azazel and to hold Dean's life contract in her hands, the brothers eventually confront her. Unable to kill her, Dean is mauled to death by Hellhounds and his soul is dragged to Hell. There Lilith orders a demon called Alastair, the same demon whom Azazel had torture John, brutalize Dean. After spending three months dead, equating to thirty years in Hell, Dean finally joins Alastair in torturing souls. On the road to becoming a demon, Dean awakens from his grave after spending four months in hell, reunites with family and meets the angel Castiel who is revealed to have resurrected Dean. Struggling with almost having had become a demon and trying to get Sam to try to quit drinking demon blood, Dean meets the Demon again when sent back in time by Castiel. Eventually learning that if one of the Demon's Special Children, of whom Sam is the only one left, kill Lilith the Apocalypse will start, Dean arrives moments too late to stop Lucifer from breaking free. Later learning of his role as the vessel for the Archangel Michael and Sam's role as Lucifer's vessel, the brothers meet the King of Crossroads Crowley and fight against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to defeat Lucifer. Learning from Death how to trap Lucifer, Sam eventually becomes the devil's vessel, but his strong bond with Dean helps him fall into Lucifer's Cage with Michael.
Quitting hunting and moving in with an ex-girlfriend Lisa, Dean begins to move onto a normal life but is thrust back into hunting when attacked by a Djinn and mysteriously saved by Sam. Shocked to learn of his brother and maternal grandfather's resurrections, Dean is placed even more on edge when Sam acts cold, ruthlessly and lets Dean temporarily turn into a vampire. Later learning from Castiel that Sam is lacking a soul, Dean sets out to fix his brother. Getting Sam's soul back through Death, the brothers begin to unravel a conspiracy involving Crowley and Castiel. Defeating Eve, the mother of all monsters, Dean cuts ties with Lisa and learns Castiel to have taken Purgatory's souls to become the most powerful angel alive. Requesting Death's help, Dean is unable to get Castiel to return the souls of Purgatory in time and the Leviathans break free and begin an effort to take over the Earth. After their father figure Bobby is killed by Dick Roman, the Leviathan leader, they gain an ally through Kevin Tran, a new prophet. With the Word of God, Dean and Castiel kill Roman but are themselves killed in the subsequent explosion and dragged to Purgatory.
Surviving in Purgatory with the aid of the vampire Benny and Castiel, Dean and Benny eventually escape. Full of guilt at being unable to rescue Cas, Dean is angered to learn that Sam did not even search for him. Reuniting with Kevin, they find another Word of God that details trials able to close the gates of Hell. Coming to terms with what he did in Purgatory, Dean aids Sam in completing the trials, and along the way they encounter the rogue angel Metatron and the Knight of Hell Abaddon. During this time the brothers are also given the Men of Letters bunker as a headquarters. Joyed that Castiel was able to escape Purgatory as well, Dean is horrified to learn his best friend to have been programmed by the angel Naomi to try to kill him. Capturing Crowley, Dean stops Sam from completing the trials when he learns it will kill his brother. When they begin to head to the hospital, Sam lapses into a coma just as the angels begin to fall down to Earth. Praying for help, Dean learns Metatron to have turned Castiel human and caused the fall. Aided by an angel named Ezekiel, Dean allows him to possess Sam if it means saving his brother. With Ezekiel in Sam, however, Dean is unable to get any help from Castiel and begins to try to find a way to handle Abaddon. Joining up with Metatron, Ezekiel reveals himself to actually be the angel Gadreel and overpowers Dean, preventing him from saving Kevin. Turning to Crowley for help, Dean manages to purge Gadreel from Sam at the cost of their relationship. Growing desperate to defeat Abaddon, Crowley manipulates Dean into accepting the Mark of Cain and aids him in locating the First Blade. Mending his bond with Sam, Dean kills Abaddon and nearly slaughters Gadreel. When finally confronting Metatron, Dean is fatally stabbed and once again dies. His body brought back to the bunker, Dean's reawakens a demon and leaves with Crowley.
Enjoying his time as a demon and killing several of Abaddon's loyalists, Dean eventually kills an innocent man called Lester Morris and uses his newfound demon powers to confirm what Crowley told him about Sam. Eventually confronting his brother, Dean is pulled into a fight by a soldier named Cole, allowing Sam to use holy water to imprison his brother. Using the demon cure process to try to turn his brother back, Sam lets his guard down as Dean escapes. With the help of Castiel, however, Dean is cured, but still remains an enhanced human with the Mark of Cain. After eventually growing more and more powerful while losing control, Dean learns from Cain, before killing his ancestor, that there is no viable cure. Death later confirms this by revealing that removing the Mark would unleash the Darkness and offers to remove Dean from society on the condition that he kill Sam. Although he initially agrees, Dean relents and kills Death instead. However, due to Sam's earlier machinations, the Mark is removed and the Darkness is unleashed regardless.
With the Darkness unleashed, Dean and Sam set out to try to find the Darkness, but are shaken to learn that the entity they are hunting is essentially God's sister, who was 'sacrificed' so that he could create the world. Manifesting as a woman who comes to call herself Amara, Dean finds himself unable to kill her due to a twisted attraction, but matters become even more complicated when Castiel consents to act the vessel for Lucifer when he becomes convinced that only an archangel has any chance against Amara. This strategy fails- speculated to be due to Lucifer's status as a fallen archangel- but the Winchesters are eventually contacted by the true God, now revealed to be Chuck Surely, the author who wrote the Winchester Gospels, who is able to make peace with Amara and depart. Dean is shocked when he is reunited with his mother, who is brought back to life by Amara as thanks for Dean's actions, but the Winchesters find themselves facing human and supernatural threats when the British branch of the Men of Letters attack the Winchesters to try to take control of America's hunters and Lucifer is left on the run trying to find a new vessel.
When turned into a vampire, Dean had greater strength and all of his senses were advanced. As a human, Dean was the bearer of the Mark of Cain; this granted him extraordinary strength, allowing him to fight on the level of a supercharged angel like Metatron. He also had several psionic abilities, the most notable of which is being able to summon and call the First Blade to him granted it is reasonable range. These powers also included premonitions given in dreams and immunity to both magical and demonic powers. As a demon bearing the Mark of Cain, Dean's strength was multiplied from the time he was a human, allowing him strength on par with, if not greater than, the Knights of Hell. His demonic powers also included a degree of telepathy, being able to read an individual named Lester's mind and learn his history with Sam upon meeting him. During his time as a demon, Dean also possessed the ability to easily regenerate from wounds and as his corrupted soul was possessing his own body, he was exempt from exorcisms that plagued other demons.
Dean is a skilled and highly resourceful hunter. He is well-versed in multiple types of firearms; he prefers his Colt 1911 and sawed-off shotgun, but is proficient with most other weapons he might acquire. He is also adept with brawling and knife fighting, and has subdued several human assailants with ease and bested physically more powerful creatures such as shapeshifters, vampires and demons. He frequently utilizes improvised weapons and explosive devices; in "Croatoan", he demonstrated knowledge of chemistry, constructing Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices, and in "Phantom Traveler", he revealed knowledge of electronics and reverse engineering, having built an electromagnetic field detector from an old Walkman radio. Dean also possesses extensive knowledge of the supernatural and mythology, and from season 4 onwards learns and is able to perform spells that are effective against angels.
Dean's work as a hunter requires him to impersonate various occupational roles in pursuing his investigations and avoid the attention of law-enforcement. To this end, Dean is well-versed in how police, fire departments and various government agencies (FBI, CDC) typically operate and conduct investigations. In supporting this lifestyle, Dean is also skillful in lock picking, breaking into security systems, carjacking and hustling for pool. Due to his time spent in Hell as Alistair's "student", Dean has an in-depth knowledge of torture. Dean is also an accomplished mechanic and maintained an intimate knowledge of automobiles and engines since childhood; he maintains his Impala in top condition.