The thermoelectric parameters, in particular the thermal conductivity and dimensionless figure of merit ZT, of ZnO nanowires, are estimated via two terminal current–voltage measurements. The measurements are carried out in situ in a transmission electron microscope and negative differential conductance is observed on individually suspended ZnO nanowires. From the low bias region of the current–voltage curve, the electrical parameters, including carrier concentration and mobility, are obtained by fitting the experimental data using a metal–semiconductor–metal model. The thermal conductivity is extracted from the high bias region of the same current–voltage curve using a self-consistent method, which combines the self-heating thermal conduction and electrical transport properties of ZnO nanowires. It is shown that the thermal conductivity of ZnO nanowires is suppressed significantly in comparison with that of bulk ZnO, which is attributed to the strong surface scattering of phonons. The thermal conductivity is also found to decrease more steeply than the expected trend, but does obey a relation; this is shown to result from four-phonon processes at high temperatures. The dimensionless figure of merit ZT is determined to be about 0.1 at 970 K. Finally, the thermoelectric properties of individual ZnO nanowires are also discussed, indicating that ZnO nanowires are promising high temperature thermoelectric materials.