With its high specific capacity, silicon is a promising anode material for high-energy lithium-ion batteries, but volume expansion and fracture during lithium reaction have prevented implementation. Si nanostructures have shown resistance to fracture during cycling, but the critical effects of nanostructure size and native surface oxide on volume expansion and cycling performance are not understood. Here, we use an ex situ transmission electron microscopy technique to observe the same Si nanowires before and after lithiation and have discovered the impacts of size and surface oxide on volume expansion. For nanowires with native SiO2, the surface oxide can suppress the volume expansion during lithiation for nanowires with diameters <similar to 50 nm. Finite element modeling shows that the oxide layer can induce compressive hydrostatic stress that could act to limit the extent of lithiation. The understanding developed herein of how volume expansion and extent of lithiation can depend on nanomaterial structure is important for the improvement of Si-based anodes.