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Used as a form of respectful address in parts of Africa.

[Swahili, from Arabic 'abūnā, our father : 'abū, bound form of 'ab, father; see ʔb in Semitic roots + -nā, our.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(in E Africa) a master, often used as a respectful form of address corresponding to sir
[Swahili, from Arabic abūna our father]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈbwɑ nə)

n., pl. -nas.
(in Africa) master; boss.
[1875–80; < Swahili < Arabic abūnā our father]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
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References in classic literature ?
Already "Bwana" and "My Dear," as she first heard them called and continued to call them, were as father and mother to her.
Mugambi, the ebon Hercules, who had shared the dangers and vicissitudes of his beloved Bwana, from Jungle Island, almost to the headwaters of the Ugambi, was the first to note the bold approach of the sinister caravan.
"They come for no good purpose in the absence of the Great Bwana."
The black had been looking at Tarzan with wide eyes, evidently not comprehending how this god could appear in so material a form, and with the voice of a white bwana and the uniform of a warrior of this city to which he quite evidently did not belong.
"No, bwana," replied Kaviri, "the white child was not with this man's party--it was with the other party."
Bwana Bwanadi: When I was young, about thirteen years old.
"I'd been doing some research in Lusaka about the political party that achieved independence, the party that Kenneth Kaunda our first president was the leader of, and in the transcripts of their national council meetings all of these freedom fighters refer to each other as 'Bwana' and at some point one of them says, we can't be using this word, we can't be using 'boss' to each other and so they switch to 'comrade'.
In 1953, ''Bwana Devil,'' the movie that heralded the 3D fad of the 1950s, had its New York opening.
In deference to the many years he spent lecturing in Africa we called him Bwana (Swahili for Lord) for obvious reasons.
injured, meaning that the death toll could rise, Nyonyi Bwana Kawa
"OK let's wait him out" says the Bwana. After about thirty minutes of standing in the late morning sun I was wilting like month-old lettuce when the man says "Here comes a cow and she's going to walk right by that bull.