The generalized thermoelasticity theory based upon the Green and Naghdi model III of thermoelasticity as well as the Eringen's nonlocal elasticity model is used to study the propagation of harmonic plane waves in a nonlocal thermoelastic medium. We found two sets of coupled longitudinal waves, which are dispersive in nature and experience attenuation. In addition to the coupled waves, there also exists one independent vertically shear-type wave, which is dispersive but experiences no attenuation. All these waves are found to be influenced by the elastic nonlocality parameter. Furthermore, the shear-type wave is found to face a critical frequency, while the coupled longitudinal waves may face critical frequencies conditionally. The problem of reflection of the thermoelastic waves at the stress-free insulated and isothermal boundary of a homogeneous, isotropic nonlocal thermoelastic half-space has also been investigated. The formulae for various reflection coefficients and their respective energy ratios are determined in various cases. For a particular material, the effects of the angular frequency and the elastic nonlocal parameter have been shown on phase speeds and the attenuation coefficients of the propagating waves. The effect of the elastic nonlocality on the reflection coefficients and the energy ratios has been observed and depicted graphically. Finally, analysis of the various results has been interpreted. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.