This root-word has one of two meanings: “male” and “retell”. Modern translations, including its usage in Modern Hebrew, translate the term as “remember”. As we shall see, this rendition is not false, but its connotation in English is misleading. The following are verses where it is used to clearly refer to males:
זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בְּרָאָם וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם וַיִּקְרָא אֶת שְׁמָם אָדָם בְּיוֹם הִבָּרְאָם
He created them [as] male and female, and God called them Adam, on the day in which He created them” (Gen. 5:2).
וּמִכָּל הָחַי מִכָּל בָּשָׂר שְׁנַיִם מִכֹּל תָּבִיא אֶל הַתֵּבָה לְהַחֲיֹת אִתָּךְ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה
“And from all the living; from all flesh, bring two of everything into the ark to live with you, male and female” (Ibid 6:19).
וְכִי יָגוּר אִתְּךָ גֵּר וְעָשָׂה פֶסַח לַיהוָה הִמּוֹל לוֹ כָל זָכָר וְאָז יִקְרַב לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ וְהָיָה כְּאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ וְכָל עָרֵל לֹא יֹאכַל בּוֹ
“And if a sojourner dwells with you, and he makes a Passover offering to the Lord, he must circumcise for himself all males [joining him], and then he may come forward to make it, and [in this regard], he is like a citizen of The Land, and anyone with foreskin may not eat of it” (Ex. 12:48).
It should be noted that sex identification corresponds to the creature’s natural genitals, as ZKR is literally rendered as “protruding”, while its counterpart, NQB (neqeva meaning female) is literally rendered as “perforated”.
Here are some instances where the term is used as “remembrance”:
וְלֹא זָכַר שַׂר הַמַּשְׁקִים אֶת יוֹסֵף וַיִּשְׁכָּחֵהוּ
“And the butler did not remember Joseph, and he forgot him” (Gen. 40:23).
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה כְּתֹב זֹאת זִכָּרוֹן בַּסֵּפֶר וְשִׂים בְּאָזְנֵי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ כִּי מָחֹה אֶמְחֶה אֶת זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם
“And The Lord said to Moses: write this as a remembrance in The Book, and place in the ears of Joshua, that I will surely erase the memory of ‘Amaleq from beneath the heavens (earth)” (Ex. 17:14).
זָכוֹר אֶתיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ
“Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it” (Ibid 20:7).
זְכֹר אַל תִּשְׁכַּח אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִקְצַפְתָּ אֶת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בַּמִּדְבָּר לְמִן הַיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם עַד בֹּאֲכֶם עַד הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה מַמְרִים הֱיִיתֶם עִם יְהוָה
“Remember, do not forget, that which The Lord your God was enraged over in the desert, from the day you left the Land of Egypt, until your arrival to this very place, you were rebellious against The Lord” (Deu. 9:7).
זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם
“Remember that which ‘Amaleq did you, in your travel, as you were leaving Egypt” (Ibid 25:17).
Consequently, the Sages (Torat Kohanim 26:3:3) are precise to note the nuance in implementing “retelling” regarding the following commandments:
“Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it”, is it possible [that this is done] in your heart (mentally remembering the Sabbath day)? When the verse (Deu. 5:11) says “safeguard [the Sabbath day]”, this is safeguarding of the heart (see Gen. 37:11), how then, is ‘remembrance’ fulfilled? So that it should be recited verbally.”
“Remember what ‘Amaleq did you on you” (Deu. 25:17), is it possible [that this is done] in your heart (mentally)? When the verse (Ibid 25:19) says “do not forget” (‘Amaleq’s actions), this is forgetting of the heart, how then, is ‘remembrance’ fulfilled? So that it should be recited verbally.” This clarification of ‘remembrance’ may be applied to all of the above cases where the term appears.
On a deeper level, one must understand the connection between a male and remembrance. The function of the male is to pass on his genes to form progeny. His progeny are not clones of himself, but rather, that which resembles him. ‘Memory’, in Hebrew thought, is of the same nature. It absolutely requires that one look inward; to perceive that processing the past includes how the observer processes it. For example, the verse (Deu. 16:3) states:
שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל עָלָיו מַצּוֹת לֶחֶם עֹנִי כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ
“… [for] seven day shall you eat upon it maṣṣa bread, the bread of affliction. For in a rush did you leave the Land of Egypt; in order that you should remember the day in which you left the Land of Egypt, all the days of your life.”
A symbolic representation, which encompasses the main ideals of redemption from bondage, is how the Exodus is “remembered”. It is not reenacted as a Broadway show, nor is there a specific formula for how one “always” remembers it. It is the job of the individual to pass on the remembrance in a personal fashion. The same holds true of ‘remembering’ the Sabbath. We do not refrain from activity; from physically creating in an ex-nihilo manner, as that is impossible for man to do. Rather, the people processed the halting of “activity” on the Sabbath in a manner which relates to their activities, specifically the ones performed in the Temple; the archetypes of activity (melakha). This rendition of ZKR may be applied to all instances where the term refers to ‘remembrance’.
In addition to the above renditions of NQB, this root is also the root for “defamation” (especially in its hiph’il causative form). As in:
וְנֹקֵב שֵׁם יְהוָה מוֹת יוּמָת
“And one who defames (noqev) the name of The Lord shall be put to death…” (Lev 24:16). Verse 14 of the same chapter refers to this individual as a ‘defamer’ (meqalel).
מָה אֶקֹּב לֹא קַבֹּה אֵל
“What shall I defame; that which God did not defame…” (Num. 23:8).
This rendition likely stems from the notion of exposing that which ought to be hidden, which is really rooted in specification. When one specifies, there is an abstract, mental form of pinpointing; forming a mental dot, or point (similar to a perforating dot). Thus, NQB is used to mean “clarify”, or “publicize” as well.
וַיֹּאמַר נָקְבָה שְׂכָרְךָ עָלַי וְאֶתֵּנָה
“And he said: clarify your wages to me, and I will give it” (Gen. 30:28).
וְרָאוּ גוֹיִם צִדְקֵךְ וְכָל מְלָכִים כְּבוֹדֵךְ וְקֹרָא לָךְ שֵׁם חָדָשׁ אֲשֶׁר פִּי יְהוָה יִקֳּבֶנּוּ
“The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name, by which the mouth of The Lord will be spread” (Isa. 62:2).
וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן אֵת הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר נִקְּבוּ בְּשֵׁמוֹת
“Moses and Aaron acquired these men; the [ones] that were called out by name” (Num. 1:17).
Hence, the Sages (Sanhedrin 7:5) define the prohibition of “defaming” God’s name, by uttering the typically unuttered name; YHWH. Perhaps this is why the prohibition does not apply within the confines of the Temple, by authorized personnel, where the taboo does not apply.
 See Sukka 12b: “if it was roofed with male [poles], it is valid, with female [poles], it is invalid.” “…and one who transacts, transacts into a perforated bag” (Ḥagai 1:6). “You pierced with his own spears the head of his throngs…” (Ḥab. 3:14).
 See also a similar discussion in Meggila 18a, Mishne Tora (Laws of Kings and Wars 5§5).
 This is why the Sages (Pesaḥim 96a) draw a distinction between the commandments of the Passover ceremony of Egypt and that of future generations. Maimonides perfectly restates the above notion with every detail and nuance in his Mishne Tora (Laws of Ḥameṣ U’maṣṣa 7§6).
 The root used in the creation account, as well as when God halts from creating on the seventh day, is ברא, which is not the form of creation man performs (creatio ex-materia). It is only used when the Divine creates out of nothing.
 See Sanhedrin 101b.