Thermoelectric materials transform temperature gradients to voltages and vise versa. Despite their many advantages, devices based on thermoelectric materials are used today only in a few applications, due to their low efficiency, which is described by the figure of merit ZT. Theoretical studies predict that scaling down these materials to the nanometric scale should enhance their efficiency partially due to a decrease in their lattice thermal conductivity. In this work we determine for the first time the lattice thermal conductivity of 40 nm bismuth (Bi) nanowires (NWs), i.e. NWs with a diameter comparable to the Fermi wavelength of charge carriers in this material. We find a surprisingly low lattice thermal conductivity of 0.13 ± 0.05 W K -1 m-1 at 77 K. A quantitative argument, which takes into account several unique properties of Bi, is given to explain this unusual finding.