Abstract This article proposes a new wake oscillator model for vortex induced vibrations of an elastically supported rigid circular cylinder in a uniform current. The near wake dynamics related with the fluctuating nature of vortex shedding is modeled based on the classical van der Pol equation, combined with the equation for the oscillatory motion of the body. An appropriate approach is developed to estimate the empirical parameters in the wake oscillator model. The present predicted results are compared to the experimental data and previous wake oscillator model results. Good agreement with experimental results is found.