A general definition of seismic wave impedance is proposed as a matrix differential operator transforming the displacement boundary conditions into traction ones. This impedance is proportional to the standard acoustic impedance at all incidence angles and allows extensions to attenuative media and to the full elastic case. In all cases, reflection amplitudes at the contact of two media are uniquely described by the ratios of their impedances. Here, the anelastic acoustic impedance is studied in detail and attenuation contrasts are shown to produce phase-shifted reflections. Notably, the correspondence principle (i.e., the approach based on complex-valued elastic modules in the frequency domain) leads to incorrect phase shifts of the impedance due to attenuation and consequently to wrong waveforms reflected from attenuation contrasts. Boundary conditions and the Lagrange formulation of elastodynamics suggest that elastic constants should remain real in the presence of attenuation and the various types of energy dissipation should be described by their specific mechanisms. The correspondence principle and complex-valued elastic moduli appear to be applicable only to homogeneous media and therefore they should be used with caution when applied to heterogeneous cases.